Federal prosecutor in Arkansas stepped down while being investigated, report says

By ANDREW DeMILLO Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal prosecutor in Arkansas left the post while under investigation for having an inappropriate relationship with an employee in the office, Justice Department documents show.

The report, first reported by the Intercept and released Tuesday, said that Duane “DAK” Kees began an intimate relationship with a subordinate within months of being sworn in as U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas in 2018. Kees stepped down as U.S. attorney in 2020.

He was then appointed to the state panel that investigates judges for misconduct last year and resigned after the Intercept story published.

Kees did not immediately respond to a message sent to his LinkedIn page Thursday morning.

Kees’ relationship with the employee, whose name was redacted, continued through September 2018, according to the inspector general’s report. He was involved in several supervisory and employment decisions about her during the relationship, the report said.

The employee told investigators that at one point when she declined a kiss from Kees while riding in an elevator with him, he said, “You do know I’m in charge of your promotions, right?” according to the report.

Kees said he did not recall making such a comment, the report said.

“Kees should have recognized that a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate, particularly where the supervisor is the head of the office, could lead a reasonable person to question his impartiality in making employment decisions,” the report said.

Kees’ relationship with the employee ended before the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys had a policy governing romantic relationships between supervisors and subordinates, according to the report. But officials said U.S. attorneys at orientations were given clear instructions that it would not be tolerated.

Kees stepped down as U.S. attorney to accept a job with Tyson Foods in Springdale, Arkansas, as its chief counsel for global investigations and regulatory compliance. A Tyson spokesperson said Kees was no longer with the company, but did not say when his employment ended.

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin last year appointed Kees to the nine-member Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which investigates misconduct complaints against judges. At the time, Griffin praised Kees’ “extraordinary record of service and impressive credentials.”

Griffin’s office said he was not aware of the investigation into Kees until after the Intercept story published Tuesday. Spokesperson Jeff LeMaster said Kees has since resigned from the commission.

Griffin on Thursday appointed Patrick Harris, director of advocacy for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, to replace Kees on the commission.