I am a little late on this, but it looks like the “Vote for Roads and Jobs Committee” was formed on October 14 with the Arkansas Ethics Commission. Unfortunately, they seem to be having problems with their filings, much like our friends on the “Moving White County Forward Committee” had.
That committee was apparently chaired by Reynie Ruteledge, owner of First Security Bank, but the filings were a bit murky, never specifying Ruteledge’s exact title. Searcy Chamber President Buck Layne was their Treasurer and they failed to report any expenditures–or even file as an official committee–until one week before election day.
The new group’s initial filing did not list any officers, but does list Layne as a member. The initial report was then amended three days later to list Layne as Treasurer and Stuart Dalrymple as chairman. Dalrymple is a local real estate agent who bankrolled much of the “Moving Forward” committee’s efforts. He has already given $1,000 to this committee.
Both of the new committee’s filings fail to state whether the committee is for or against the recent proposal, but I think we can figure that out.
An interesting discovery: the committee’s location is listed as 2323 South Main St., Searcy, Arkansas, which is the address of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce. Given that the chamber receives a large sum of taxpayer money (at least $40,000 from the city of Searcy, the last time I checked), I wonder if any of the chamber’s resources are being used in promotion of this tax or if the chamber plans to report those expenses?
I will be doing some more inquiring into this.
A reporter for the paper called me just a short while ago to ask for comment on the Arkansas Ethics Commission ruling, finding Judge Mike Lincoln in violation of state law. The article will run tomorrow and it is already available on the paper’s website for those of you who have access.
But the judge’s comments in the article do not quite add up:
- The judge says he ‘still does not believe he did anything wrong,’ but admits that he broke the law. I can only interpret that to mean, the judge does not see anything wrong with breaking the law.
- The judge still maintains that Mr. House was volunteering his time that he was promoting the tax. This is funny, because the terms of his contract explicitly state that he was hired to promote the tax: ”Mr. House will work with the county judge in any tax promotion that affects economic development in the county…” The fact that the judge continues to deny this is further dishonesty on his part. This was the critical piece of evidence that resulted in the violation and he was told so by the Commission.
- Lincoln is quoted in the paper as saying, “The only probably cause they had was that I didn’t file the correct report.” I will assume he meant probable cause, but either way, this statement is also patently false. Earlier in the article, he admits that he did not file any paperwork until yesterday–more than 2 weeks after the hearing, more than 6 weeks after the election, and more than 7 weeks after this issue had been brought to his attention. In fact, he admits just a few sentences earlier, “I should have filed the paperwork previously.” So which one is it? Did you file the wrong paperwork or no paperwork at all? The correct answer is no paperwork at all, until yesterday, and this can be confirmed by a quick trip to the Ethics Commission website.
The bottom line here folks: the judge’s office used your money to promote a tax increase–which is technically legal in Arkansas, within certain parameters–but then they lied about it repeatedly and continue to fail to show any remorse for what they have done. They stepped outside of those parameters and refused to comply after it was repeatedly brought to their attention. The judge in particular has violated the public trust and now that it has been proven, he continues to deny any wrongdoing.
I hope the voters of White County are paying attention.
Many have inquired about the ethics hearing that was held several weeks ago, at which the White County Judge was called to testify about alleged ethics violations. As of today, I have not received any notification of a decision by the commission.
However, judging by the timelines of some of the rulings on their website, this may not be that unusual. It looks like it takes about 3-4 weeks from the hearing date before a final ruling is released.
Given that metric, we should expect to hear something later this week or early next week. I will keep you posted.
Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., White County Judge Mike Lincoln will be called to testify before the Arkansas Ethics Commission. The commission’s staff attorney has been conducting an investigation since early September.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint that I filed in my capacity as Chairman of Citizens for Responsible Taxation, alleging improper use of taxpayer funds to promote the county’s proposed tax increase. I announced the complaint filing on local radio last month. Specifically, the complaint asks the commission to make a ruling on the hiring of Mr. Jim House to promote the tax increase with taxpayer money & to determine if any promotional materials were produced out of the judge’s office, as stated in the text of Mr. House’s contract.
From what I have been told, the investigation has not turned up any evidence of promotional materials being published out of the courthouse, but the payments to Mr. House are a violation of state law because the expenditures were not reported to the commission & the public. The commission is expected to rule in this manner, likely resulting in a fine.
I will share more information as it becomes available.
There is a new radio ad on air in White County, allegedly paid for by the “Committee to Move White County Forward.” That sounds sweet enough, but exactly who makes up this committee? How are they funded? And what qualifies them as a “committee” in the first place?
Without more information, I cannot answer the first question.
I can tell you that the funders of this “committee” are you, the taxpayers, as we have previously documented.
The third question is a bit troublesome for our Moving friends: according to the Arkansas Ethics Commission website, this committee does not exist.
Also, according to Arkansas ethics laws, financial disclosure is required when expenditures surpass $500 in a given month. So this begs another question: why aren’t county officials following state law?
If I and other private citizens have a basic understanding of these rules, it is reasonable to assume that our elected officials do as well.
So why are they ignoring the law?
Is this simply more proof that we cannot trust our elected officials with more of our money?
Nicholas Horton, Chairman, Citizens for Responsible Taxation
The Arkansas Patriot is a conservative organization dedicated to equipping citizens with the truth, insuring transparent government, and encouraging citizens to question their government boldly. Contact The Patriot at firstname.lastname@example.org