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Local & Regional News
Tue January 7, 2014
Darr Says He Won't Step Down Over Ethics Violations
Arkansas Lieutenant Gov. Mark Darr says he won't resign despite calls that he quit or risk being impeached over ethics violations.
Darr said in a statement Tuesday he won't step down over complaints tied to his office and campaign spending. Darr last week agreed with Ethics Commission findings that he violated state ethics and campaign laws 11 times and agreed to $11,000 in fines.
Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and Arkansas's Republican members of Congress want the lieutenant governor to resign. At the state Capitol, Democratic House members have said they'll attempt to impeach the Republican lieutenant governor if he doesn't leave. The ethics panel believes Darr misspent campaign funds and kept poor records.
Legislative auditors said Darr misused a state credit card and received improper travel reimbursements.
Darr released the following statement today:
Kim and I would like to thank many people across the state for their calls, texts and prayers during this difficult time. We have been encouraged by your willingness to stand up for us and beside us throughout this process. Probably one of the most valuable lessons we have learned over the past few years is the value of friendship. We have been encouraged in good faith to share with the people of Arkansas the factual truth, instead of continuing to remain silent.
I am not downplaying what has occurred, but there is no scandal, no conspiracy and no malicious intentional disregard of the law. If there were, it would apparently involve multiple offices and agencies. It was an oversight that should have been noticed and corrected long before now and by multiple people including myself.
Over the past few months I have been diligently working with various state offices to correct errors that were either directly or indirectly my responsibility, but are no more than unintentional mistakes. I have walked through the process, worked cooperatively, and taken responsibility, but the facts have not been accurately presented to the public. For the errors I made, I apologize to the people of Arkansas and I will now share the actual facts.
First, what has not been stated is that in 2010, I loaned my campaign over $170,000 and had every legal right to raise money and retire that debt. This is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I erred in how I reported those payments and fundraising activities, which has been incorrectly interpreted as my using campaign funds for personal use. When this was brought to my attention, I immediately became pro-active to be transparent and correct those mistakes by requesting that the ethics commission review my previous filings for potential errors, which included filing an ethics complaint on myself. I want you to know that at the end of the day, the only money that ever came back to me, in whatever form, was a repayment of campaign debt that was legally owed to me.
Second, over the past three years I collected almost $10,000 in travel reimbursements that were incorrect. These were reimbursements for official travel. The error was using my home as the point of origin instead of the Capitol building. As Lieutenant Governor I am constitutionally given the same privilege that the Governor has in regards to travel and security. This means that I could have spent tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money over the past three years by using the Arkansas State Police to provide transportation and security. I could have also purchased, like my predecessor, a state vehicle which would cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. Instead, I decided to use my personal vehicle and was reimbursed mileage an average of $3,000 per year over the past three years. This saved the taxpayers of Arkansas countless tax dollars. The Lieutenant Governor’s office is different in the fact that we submit our payment requests to the State Auditor’s office for payment. The State Auditor’s office would pay the bill or contact us when something appeared to be inaccurate. No one in my office was ever contacted to make us aware of the policy regarding the Capitol building being the point of origin instead of my home. Furthermore, in a previous annual audit, no findings were issued and the travel reimbursement was not brought to our attention by Legislative Audit.
Third, that I misused state funds by using the state credit card for personal expense. These were purchases that were either for official state use or used by mistake while traveling. As soon as the errors were realized, I reimbursed the state for those charges. For some unknown reason, it appears that the State Auditor’s office failed to deposit one of the checks, for which I have proof of payment. I will gladly resubmit this check.
These three facts are not worthy of my removal from office and certainly not worthy of personal attacks on my character and on my family. The cost of a special election would be in excess of one million dollars. This cost coupled with the facts that I have outlined concerning my actions, convince me that I should stay in office. I believe that this course would be best for the state.
Today I put a stake in the ground. Not for this office, not for the title or the job, but I put a stake in the ground for those Arkansans who are sick and tired of these types of political games and the people who play them. It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come. I am a normal citizen, who ran for office, who is trying to do my job to the best of my ability with integrity and character. I am doing what is necessary to make things right and I have a peace in sharing the truth with you today. This has been an embarrassing time for my family and me and when history is recorded I want my children to know that I have owned up to mistakes and made them right. Thank you Kim and so many others for encouraging me to share the truth.
Since Darr's decision to remain in office fellow Republican, House Speaker Davy Carter, said he is considering appointing a committee to make procedural recommendations for the impeachment process. Last week Democrats said they are likely to pursue impeachment if Darr remains in office.
Carter's office released this statement Tuesday:
“Today’s events have raised the level of inquiries into my office regarding the mechanics of the impeachment process. From research conducted by my office, no one has ever been impeached in Arkansas under our current Constitution written in 1874. Moreover, there are limited statutes on the subject and virtually no precedence in the House to look to for procedural guidance. Everyone is entitled to due process before substantive judgments are made, and, as we sit here today, there is no clear process clearly established in the House. Accordingly, my office is contemplating a couple of avenues in which to provide a proper process should the majority of members decide to pursue impeachment. The most likely scenario at this juncture would be the appointment of eight to ten House members to a bi-partisan ad hoc committee charged with making procedural recommendations to the House Committee on Rules."