Baker Resigns from Executive Post Effective Immediately

This post has been updated as recently as 9:37 a.m. on April 3. 

Executive Assistant to the President  Gilbert Baker resigned Wednesday morning effective immediately from his administrative position in a one-sentence email sent out by the President’s Office.

In an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article published the same day, Don Thomas of Conway said he was unaware of the political action committee established in his name. Thomas is a former paid political consultant for Baker, a former state senator.

The PAC is one of eight involved in an investigation of Circuit Judge Michael Maggio who has since been stripped of his court docket following the investigations into anonymous comments Maggio made in a Louisiana State University forum as well as the timing of campaign contributions he received from these PACs.

These investigations led Maggio to drop out of the Arkansas Court of Appeals race.

“I have no idea … what you’re talking about,” Thomas said about the committees. “I really don’t know anything about it.”

Little Rock lawyer Chris Stewart is responsible for creating the eight PACs. He is the registered agent for a Baker-established consulting company and works for the national Faith and Freedom Coalition at its Arkansas affiliate, which Baker created.

The Democrat-Gazette reported that the PACs have accepted thousands of dollars from the businesses of nursing home-mogul Michael Morton.

One of Morton’s nursing homes was involved last year in a negligence lawsuit regarding patient Martha Bull, 76. Bull died at Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in April 2008. Bull’s family was originally granted $5.2 million in a juried malpractice and wrongful death suit against the facility and Morton.

Maggio later reduced the settlement to $1 million.

Months after Bull’s sisters accepted the reduced damages, seven of those PACs began donating to the judge’s campaign.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, Morton told reporters last month that “a woman who worker with Baker, Linda Flanagin, asked him to support Maggio’s campaign while Maggio was presiding over the lawsuit filed in the death of nursing-home patient, Martha Bull, 76.”

Baker responded that he was unaware of that conversation between Morton and Flanagin and “did not tell her to do that or instruct her to do that.”

Baker was hired to UCA executive staff in November 2012 with a $132,000 annual salary. He registered as a lobbyist in 2013, according to a statement sent out to media.

Baker, President Tom Courtway, Associate Media Relations Director Fredricka Sharkey and Vice President of Communications, Public Relations and Marketing Christina Madsen could not be reached for comment at this time.

Updates will be posted as they become available. The full story will be in print next Wednesday.

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