Former official convicted of bribery tapped for West Memphis job

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A former Arkansas official who was convicted of bribery has been tapped to run a city’s newly created department.

West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon appointed Steven Jones as director of business and community relations, which will focus on projects that enhance the city’s relationship with businesses and residents.

Jones pleaded guilty in 2014 for his involvement in a bribery scheme when he was the deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services overseeing Medicaid, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Authorities said at the time that Jones accepted and solicited cash and valuables from Ted Suhl, the owner of two mental-health businesses that served children and received Medicaid funds.

Jones was sentenced in February 2016 to 2½ years in prison, placed on supervised release for a year and was required to pay a $6,000 fine. He was released Dec. 26, 2017.

Mark Hayes, executive director of the Arkansas Municipal League, said Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of state law or a state “ethical constraint” that bars local governments from hiring convicted felons.

The mayor and Jones didn’t respond to the newspaper’s request for comment on Tuesday.

West Memphis Councilman James Holt Sr. said council members are aware of Jones’ criminal record. Holt noted the mayor’s appointment of Jones is still subject to a City Council vote.

“Some highly regarded people have recommended (Jones),” Holt said. “I’m reviewing it all before I put my vote on it. But we know about his past. I’ve known Steve the whole time.”

The City Council will consider the appointment early next month, Holt said.

Suhl was sentenced to seven years in prison after his October 2016 conviction of bribery related to Medicaid fraud. President Donald Trump commuted his sentence in July.

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