I drove by Sidney Deener school this evening around 8:00 p.m. The aforementioned pro-A&P tax sign (pictured right) was no where to be found.
No word if the sign that was being displayed at Southwest Middle School is still up or not. If someone goes by there, let me know if you spot it.
I know of at least one concerned citizen that read my earlier story about these signs that were apparently on public property and contacted Searcy Public Schools directly. On the eve of this pivotal election, what a great reminder of the power of citizen engagement. You can make a difference; you can hold your government accountable.
If you haven’t voted yet, there is still plenty of time. Arkansas voters, visit http://www.VoterView.org to see where you vote.
In his latest campaign expenditure report, Searcy police chief and candidate for state representative Kyle Osborne reported a $400 expense for “rent.” The address given leads to an apartment complex in Searcy.
State ethics laws regarding the use of campaign funds for explicitly personal reasons are fairly clear — it’s a no no. However, the ethics commission reserves the right to determine whether or not expenses are for “personal use” or for campaign use.
The following paragraph is included in the ethics commission’s guidelines for campaign expenditures under Section 209, “Personal Expenses – Prohibited Uses:”
(c) Mortgage, Rent and Utility Payments - This includes any payments with respect to a personal residence of the candidate or his or her family, even if a portion of the residence is used by the campaign. It does not include (i) payments made by a candidate with respect to other buildings or offices or office space used solely for campaign purposes, such as the campaign’s headquarters, even if the candidate owns the space used, so long as the space is not the candidate’s personal residence and the campaign pays a fair market value for use of the space;
My interpretation of this law is fairly simple: campaign funds can be used for rent as long as the space is used exclusively for campaign purposes. If any part of the space is used for personal residence or purposes, campaign funds cannot be used.
I called the ethics commission and requested some clarification on these guidelines. They said my interpretation was more or less correct and that there are some circumstances in which using campaign funds for rent could be permissible, so long as the funds were not used for personal use. The determination as to whether or not an expenditure is for “personal use” or “campaign use” is an interpretation the Arkansas Ethics Commission reserves the right to make, per Section 210.
One possible explanation for the expense listed on Osborne’s report is that the apartment is being used to house campaign workers. Osborne has hired the Markham Group (he paid them $3,800 last month) out of Little Rock to run his campaign. Perhaps he is paying for an apartment for them to sleep in and stage their campaign out of. This would be somewhat of a gray area and the ethics commission would have to make a ruling about whether or not this qualified as “personal use” or “campaign use.”
If the funds were being used for a campaign office or for official campaign purposes, we might expect to see the expenses recur on Osborne’s monthly filings — he has been campaigning and reporting campaign expenses for several months. But we do not. Unless I am missing something, this rent expense is only shown on the September report.
Today is primary day in Arkansas. That means it is time to wrap up our “Vet The Judge” series. I hope it has been informative as you have decided who to support for White County judge.
As we conclude today, I wanted to share this letter (seen above, emphasis added) with you. It was sent, as you can see, to JudgeLincoln on November 7th of last year. I received a copy because I was the citizen who filed the request for review with the ethics commission.
Now, Judge Lincoln has been on record saying he ‘did nothing wrong’ and after speaking with several in the community, I have realized that, thanks in large part to our prestigious local media, many have been unaware of these charges against the judge.
[Speaking of prestigious media, did you know the Searcy paper has printed 4.5 pre-election stories about Lincoln's opponent's health, but zip, zero, nada stories about his ethics violations? I know, I'm a conspiracy theorist.]
Two important observations to make about the letter:
1. The letter expressly says that Judge Lincoln violated Arkansas law.
2. The letter expressly says that Judge Lincoln signed a letter acknowledging that he broke the law, while also saying in the paper that ‘he did nothing wrong.’ I can only interpret this to mean: Judge Lincoln sees nothing wrong with breaking the law.
Don’t forget to cast your vote today before the polls close at 7:30 p.m. You can find your polling location here.
Here’s a look at our top stories from last week:
- Examining Judge Lincoln’s ‘Transparency’ Record. Judge Lincoln recently said that his office has ‘always fully complied with Arkansas’ FOI law.’ We beg to differ.
- Why I Can’t Support White County Judge Lincoln. Community leader Scott Biddle weighs in on Judge Lincoln’s recording in light of the upcoming primary.
- Audio: New Ads In White County Focus On Judge Lincoln’s Record. Two new ads have hit the airwaves in White County. One ad highlights Judge Mike Lincoln’s ethics violation. The other focuses on his OEM director’s misuse of thousands of taxpayer dollars.
Two new ads are hitting the airwaves in White County on Friday, in lieu of the upcoming primary election on May 22nd.
Hear the ads for yourself:
OEM credit card: