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Arkansas AG-elect Tim Griffin restructures office, appoints senior staff

Michael Hibblen
Attorney General-elect Tim Griffin outside the Arkansas State Capitol on April 17, 2015.

Arkansas Attorney General-elect Tim Griffin will restructure the attorney general’s office staff, eliminating the chief of staff and two deputy chief of staff positions.

Griffin in a Friday announcement said the office’s new “unified supervisory structure” would be led by newly named Chief Deputy Attorney General Bob Brooks Jr.

Griffin, currently Arkansas’ lieutenant governor, also announced the creation of the Office of General Counsel, a Special Litigation Section that will fall under the Civil Litigation Division, a director of trial advocacy position, and a Special Prosecutions Division.

Friday’s announcement included a host of new names that will replace senior leaders in Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office. Griffin will also be retaining several top officials, including Solicitor General Nicholas Bronni and the deputy attorney general over the Medicaid Fraud Unit, Lloyd Warford.

“I first want to thank Attorney General Rutledge for her assistance and cooperation during our transition,” Griffin said in a statement. “I am excited to announce my senior staff and restructuring. This talented team will serve with excellence and the highest level of professionalism. They share my commitment to protecting Arkansans from criminals, unscrupulous actors, and an overreaching federal government.”

Griffin and Rutledge are essentially trading places in January. Both were term limited in their current positions and started campaigns for the Republican nomination for governor. However, both dropped out after Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders entered the race.

Griffin, the former congressman for Arkansas’ 2nd Congressional District, will be sworn in on Jan. 10.

The new Office of General Counsel will be responsible for “providing world-class legal advice internally within the Office of the Attorney General and externally through the Opinions and State Agencies Divisions.”

The Special Litigation Section will take on the office’s most “complex” cases and work with the solicitor general’s appellate practice.

The director of trial advocacy will provide office attorneys, particularly those who are younger and less experienced, with trial advocacy training.

Griffin also announced the following senior staff members:

Chief Deputy Attorney General Bob Brooks Jr. is a Fort Smith native and currently a partner at Capitol Counsel LLC, a Washington D.C. lobbying and advocacy firm. Brooks served as chief of staff to former congressmen and House Committee on Ways and Means Ranking Member Jim McCrery (LA-04) and Jay Dickey (AR-04).

General Counsel Zach Mayo is a native Arkansan who currently serves as criminal justice counsel for Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Prior to that, he served as a clerk for Arkansas Supreme Court Associate Justice Shawn Womack and as deputy director of external relations for the Federalist Society.

Senior Advisor Carl Vogelpohl is a Little Rock native currently serving as chief of staff in the lieutenant governor’s office and is Rutledge’s former chief of staff in the AG’s office. He has also served as district director, deputy chief of staff, and chief of staff for Griffin’s 2nd Congressional District office.

Assistant Attorney General and Director, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, Alexandra Benton is a native of Batesville and currently serves as counselor and deputy director of America Strong and Free Inc., and previously served as Hutchinson’s appointment coordinator.

Director, Office of Community Relations, Anushree Jumde is from Conway and currently serves as district director for U.S. Rep. French Hill (R-Ark.). She previously served as a district representative in Hill’s office after starting in the office under Griffin in 2014.

Deputy General Counsel for State Agencies Daniel Faulkner is currently deputy attorney general for state agencies and has been in the office since 2016. He started in public service as a lawyer in the Arkansas Department of Labor in 2002.

Deputy General Counsel for Opinions Ryan Owsley is from Little Rock and currently serves as a senior legislative attorney in the Bureau of Legislative Research. He previously served in the attorney general’s office from 2008 through 2016.

Deputy Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division, John Payne is the deputy adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard and holds the rank of Brigadier General. He commanded the 77th Aviation Brigade on deployment to Iraq in 2011 and earned the Bronze Star.

Senior Assistant Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division, and Chief, Special Litigation Section, Christine Cryer will return to the attorney general’s office from the Arkansas Department of Corrections where she currently serves as chief legal counsel. Cryer previously served under Griffin’s three immediate predecessors in the attorney general’s office.

Senior Assistant Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division, Special Litigation Section, Noah Watson is an associate attorney at Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC in Little Rock where his practice focuses on civil litigation. He served as a clerk for Chief Judge Lavenski Smith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Assistant Attorney General, Civil Litigation Division, Special Litigation Section, Justin Brascher is currently serving as a deputy prosecutor in the Cowlitz County Prosecutor’s Office in Kelso, Washington. He previously served as a prosecutor in Bothell, Washington, and a clerk in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

Senior Assistant Attorney General and Director of Trial Advocacy, Civil Litigation Division, Renae Ford Hudson is from Sherwood and currently serves as the deputy attorney general of the Civil Litigation Division.

Deputy Attorney General, Public Protection Division, Chuck Harder is from Benton and previously led the Public Protection Division. Previously, he served as the vice president for Regulatory and Government Affairs at SourceGas LLC after holding multiple senior and director-level positions at CenterPoint Energy Inc. Additionally, he has held leadership positions on various consumer protection boards and utility trade associations.

Senior Assistant Attorney General, Special Prosecutions Division, Ryan Cooper is from Walnut Ridge and currently serves as the Prosecuting Attorney for the Third Judicial District. He previously served as the city attorney for the cities of Hoxie and Walnut Ridge and city attorney for the cities of Black Rock, Imboden and Ravenden.

Deputy Chief of Investigations and Director, Executive Protection Unit, Special Investigations Division, John Howard is currently special agent in charge in the Special Investigations Division and a reserve officer in the Jacksonville Police Department. He began his law enforcement career in 1997 as a patrol officer in Jacksonville and was later promoted to the JUMP Team and detective. Additionally, he served as a deputy sheriff and investigator for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department. Howard also served as a civilian contractor providing security in high threat areas in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last week, Griffin announced that former Little Rock Police Department Interim Chief Wayne Bewley will become his Chief of Investigations, Special Investigations Division.

Bronni, the solicitor general, is a Camden native and has served as solicitor general since 2018. He first joined the attorney general’s office in 2016 after serving as a senior litigation counsel at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Deputy Attorney General, Criminal Division, Darnisa Johnson started in the attorney general’s office in 1991 as an assistant attorney general. She was promoted to senior assistant attorney general in 1996 and later became a deputy attorney general in 2002.

Deputy Attorney General, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Lloyd Warford is a native of North Little Rock and has served in this position since 2015. He previously served as a deputy prosecuting attorney, on the Arkansas Public Defender Commission, and as an attorney and assistant director of Youth Services at the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

Deputy Editor of Arkansas Advocate, which is part of States Newsroom, a national nonprofit news organization, supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. The Advocate retains full editorial independence.