Leader Blues

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Quillin’s relatives stand by their man

Ron Quillin’s mother-in-law wasn’t too happy with my column Wednesday about the former Pulaski County comptroller who’s in prison for stealing more than $40,000 to finance an affair with a lady friend who was doing business with the county.

His mother-in-law, who’s surely a saint, mortgaged her home so he could repay the money he’d embezzled, although she knows her son-in-law is far from perfect. His love affair with a St. Louis woman, much of it conducted through hundreds of emails from his office, “was very stupid and selfish,” his mother-in-law tells us in an email, also pointing out we misspelled his name.  

“However, since he is very remorseful, at least you can understand why his family is supporting him and not turning our backs on him.  Would you turn your back on your children if they made mistakes and needed you?” she asks.

Just over a week ago, the state Supreme Court ordered the release of the embarrassing emails after Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines fought unsuccessfully for months to keep the emails secret.

“It may interest you to know that we knew about the emails long before we loaned Ron the money to repay the citizens of Pulaski County,” his mother-in-law writes. “It also may interest you to know that not even one program or project suffered because of his crime. Did you make so much fuss when the Arkansas Symphony financial director stole $160,000 from the symphony a couple of years ago and only has to repay about $24,000 and will get a sentence of only 10 years? He hasn’t even gone to prison yet because he wanted to help his daughter get through her senior year. There are many more examples of worse behavior on record.”

Sure there are worse cases out there — child rapists, serial killers, crooked politicians — but we wrote about Quillin’s case less because of his personal life and more because it applied to the state Freedom of Information Act, which Pulaski County tried to ignore until the courts said the emails were public property.

Quillin didn’t steal all that much — in fact, his mother-in-law points out the additional $14,000 he must repay (not $12,000 as we claimed) is mostly for the cost of the audit. A couple of thousand dollars were for questionable travel expenses. He’s agreed to repay $200 a month when he goes free.

“As for our daughter,” his mother-in-law continues, “we are very proud of her. She has been through hell this past few months but loves her husband and has chosen to keep the vows she made on their wedding day.  She has had a lot of  ‘for worse’ lately. Those vows don’t come with qualifiers, and there has been much ‘for better.’  

“As for the other woman, no, she hasn’t helped in any way to make restitution, though it would be nice if she did.  However, her marriage is destroyed and we all know the sad effect that will have on her two young children.  If only people would realize that their choices, whether good or bad, don’t affect only themselves. “Ron is a very intelligent person,” she insists. “He made stupid, immoral and illegal choices and mistakes. That seems to prove that he isn’t very smart, but really he is. In fact, he is probably the best comptroller that Pulaski County has had and did his job very well as far as the decisions he made concerning his job. He did a lot of good for Pulaski County so it is a shame he made such dumb personal decisions and used his job to help him.

“He knew that an audit would be performed when he left the job as comptroller, but left anyway because he knew that he couldn’t continue the way he was going. That’s why the more intense audit that was performed because a crime had been committed didn’t show anything that he hadn’t already admitted to. He was upfront and cooperated with authorities from the moment he was arrested.     

“We love him and are waiting for him to get out of prison, which will be most likely two years since he only has to do two months for every year of the 12 he was sentenced to.”

Maybe she’s right — Quillin could get out in two years with good behavior. Here’s hoping he rebuilds his life, although he won’t get a job in government when he gets out.