LITTLE ROCK — Less than a week after being appointed to serve in an interim role as Arkansas’ secretary of corrections, former Republican state Sen. Eddie Joe Williams said Tuesday he must “step aside.”
In a letter to the Board of Corrections, Williams said he would be unable to accomplish the goals of expanding prison beds and hiring employees to bring stakeholders together given the current political climate surrounding his position.
On Friday, Attorney General Tim Griffin sent a letter to Williams encouraging him “to decline the board’s unlawful appointment.”
“Sen. Williams made the right and honorable decision by refusing to accept the illegal appointment offered by the Board of Corrections,” Griffin said in a statement Tuesday. “I appreciate and applaud his clarity of thought and strength of character at a critical and undoubtedly stressful
Williams was voted to serve as the agency’s interim secretary last week, following the dramatic firing of former Secretary Joe Profiri after months of controversy.
There has been a power struggle between the Arkansas Board of Corrections and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on who should have control of the state’s prison system.
“The Governor appreciates Eddie Joe Williams’ service and respects his decision to do the right thing and follow the law,” Sanders spokeswoman Alexa Henning said. “The Board of Corrections knows that it is only the governor who selects and nominates the secretary.”
Before Profiri’s firing, the board suspended him and sued the state over a law removing its ability to fire him.
This came after Sanders administration said they planned to move forward with opening hundreds of new temporary prison beds that the board had not approved. Sanders publicly criticized the board in November for not fully approving the request for temporary beds.
A spokesperson with the Board of Corrections said they do not have a statement at this time and are still determining the next steps.