The vulgarities-gone-viral diatribe from state Sen. Stephanie Flowers during a judiciary committee hearing at the Capitol earlier this month added considerable perspective to my 2018 column, which prominently featured the same legislator.
Flower’s nationally publicized profanities over a “stand your ground” bill has helped me better understand the bizarre situation involving the black senator from Pine Bluff and White Hall police officer and West Point graduate Ed Monk that prompted Monk’s civil suit.
In March 2018, I wrote that Monk had filed the lawsuit in Pulaski County alleging his personal and constitutional rights had been violated weeks before by a legislative sergeant-at-arms and Arkansas State Police troopers.
It began, Monk claimed in that earlier column, when in 2013 he’d sent what was described as a polite email to Flowers asking for a meeting to discuss the state’s concealed-carry law. Also a firearms instructor, Monk did have a cordial visit with the senator in what one Capitol Police observer afterwards noted was not in the least threatening.
Four years later, on Feb. 21, 2017, Monk sent Flowers an email seeking a second meeting at her office. He said Flowers did not reply, but she did print out Monk’s request, the suit contends, and wrote on it: “This is most recent email. I feel this is intimidating & harassing [sic] considering the history from 2013.”
Two days later, a purported “John Doe” with the Capitol Police then supposedly gave Senate Sergeant-At-Arms and former state trooper Alvernon Rogers Monk’s photo from the ACIC law enforcement database. That same day, Rogers was accused in the suit of distributing Monk’s picture to three state police troopers at the Capitol, reportedly telling them to “be on the lookout” for White Hall officer Ed Monk.
Rogers and others allegedly claimed Monk had confronted Flowers in her Capitol office that morning about legislation and had become irate, which caused her to feel threatened. Rogers and other John Does stated Monk refused to leave and had to be forcibly removed, the suit also alleges, and that there was even concern he might return.
During the commotion, Rogers also allegedly gave Monk’s February email requesting the meeting with Flowers (containing her handwritten note about feeling threatened) to one of the troopers.
There was only one enormous problem with all this bizarre hysteria. Monk and his attorneys, Joey McCutchen and W. Whitfield Hyman of Fort Smith, said Monk was nowhere near Little Rock when all this supposedly was unfolding.
Monk insisted that, except for sending Flowers his unanswered February email, he hadn’t interacted with her since their 2013 meeting. “This allegation by the sergeant-at-arms was 100 percent false, totally made-up,” Monk told me in March 2018.
“Nothing like this ever happened, any time. I have never acted anything but professional and polite toward any public official. I was not even in Little Rock that day.”
The allegations against Monk, described in the suit as being malicious, escalated when state police notified his supervisor, who then called the White Hall chief of police. Monk was summoned to the chief’s office for a statement.
“… [H]ours after calling my boss with the false report, the ASP troopers checked with the Capitol Police and were told the report was false, that it never happened,” said Monk. “But after being told by the Capitol Police that the troopers had been lied to … the troopers did not [immediately] call my boss to correct their mistake. They only did so days later after I began looking into it.”
Monk in 2018 also told me he’d “identified the source of the false allegations, ASP and the Senate staff have refused to cooperate, have lied, and have failed to comply with [Freedom of Information Act] requests. The sergeant-at-arms who made the false report to the troopers is Alvernon Rogers … and well known because he used to appear regularly on morning TV news. I could not understand ASP’s attempts to keep his identity hidden until I found out who it was.”
Monk added he had “an ASP memo (by FOIA request) about the false report written by an ASP captain which [states], ‘AV. Rogers was involved.’ Yet I have a letter from the ASP director stating that ASP does not know the identity of the sergeant at arms who gave the three troopers the false report … yet one of those troopers mentions him by name, and an ASP captain mentions his name in a memo without explaining who he is, meaning the captain assumes everyone else reading the memo” will know him.
Monk said Rogers later told him he knew nothing of the alleged events at the Capitol, or Monk’s removal, or how the story about him originated. Monk said Rogers conceded he knew Flowers didn’t want Monk visiting her office.
In summary, this White Hall policeman with a clean professional record in 2018 claimed he was damaged because “a state employee created a totally made-up, false misconduct accusation against a constituent and reported that, as a state employee, to the ASP in order to get negative ASP action against me, which ASP did. I was ‘swatted’.”
While his lawsuit creeps onward a year later, Rogers’ deposition raised troubling and questions, ample fodder for a full-scale ethics investigation, according to McCutchen. A state’s motion to dismiss the suit currently is being weighed by Circuit Judge Alice Gray. I’ll just bet they do want this mess they’ve created to vanish.
For me, Senator Flowers’ unprovoked and over-reactive tirade during that recent “stand your ground” hearing shed relevant and revealing light on the Monk fiasco.
An Internet video of that hearing showed Flowers literally screaming about feeling scared and threatened by the possibility of enacting such legislation (which half of the states already have passed.)
“I am the only person here of color, OK. I am a mother, too,” she shouted. “… I care as much for my son as y’all care for y’alls’, but my son doesn’t walk the same path as yours does!”
At one point, Republican state Sen. Alan Clark, who chairs the committee, tried to halt Flowers’ shouting, telling her in a low voice, “Senator, you need to stop.”
“No, I don’t! What the hell are you going to do? Shoot me?” she shouted. Wait, did this elected senator really say “shoot me” in a public hearing?
Clark again appealed gently: “Senator …” Flowers interjected: “Senator, s***. Go to hell!” Afterwards she added: “Do what the hell you wanna do. Go ahead. But you can’t silence me. … You are not going to silence me!”
The committee responded by complying with Flowers to vote down the measure (thankfully no one was shot or went to hell in the process).
Meanwhile, Monk awaits his day in court with Judge Gray, who hopefully will weigh such a disturbing matter honestly and fairly. Plus we now have deeper insights into the kind of thinking and behaviors that triggered Monk’s lawsuit.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.