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Letter From Ethics Commission Says White County Judge Broke the Law

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.

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Yeah, More Ethics Violations for White County Judge Lincoln

As part of our Vet The Judge series, I shared some photos earlier in the week of Judge Lincoln using the White County Cleanup as a campaign event.  It’s been a big hit.

Then I remembered:  I have some other photos of the judge from back during last year’s fair parade.  What was he doing, you ask?  Oh, you know, using taxpayer-funded vehicles to campaign.

Exhibit A:

One thing to note in this first pic: there is duct tape over the ‘re-elect’ portion of the judge’s sign, along the left side.  In my opinion, this is at the very least a tacit admission that Lincoln knew he was coming dangerously close to an ethics violation–why else take the effort to cover up the “re-elect?”

And before someone cries foul here, let’s look at the law. Continue reading

“White County Cleanup” Raises Ethics Questions for County Judge

I received a tip on Saturday afternoon that White County Judge Mike Lincoln was using the “White County Cleanup”–a time for county residents to bring garbage to the county fairgrounds and have it disposed of, at the expense of the taxpayers–as a campaign event.  I arrived at the event to find this sign in front of the gate, on public property:

Here is a zoomed-in look at the figures you see in the background.  In yellow is OEM Director Tamara Jenkins, the judge’s favorite county employee who used taxpayer money to purchase Thanksgiving dinner for her family, a heat pump, and a couple of trailers.  Mike Lincoln is pictured leaning down, apparently looking at the truck’s tires.  And Jenkins’ assistant is laying down in the back of the truck.  I am not sure who the young lady is.  There is also an older gentleman sitting down in the lawn chair next to Jenkins:

Here is another photo.  At the far left you can see a sign that says “White County Cleanup ENTRANCE–>”

Here’s a zoomed in look at that photo.  This was after the judge noticed my presence on county property and began yelling at me.  I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but he began charging at me and so to avoid conflict, I left.  His shirt features his campaign logo.  You can see him front and center, facing the camera:

So what does the law say about using public property/publicly-funded items for campaign use?  Well, let’s just say Judge Lincoln has several questions to answer.

1.  Was the judge using publicly-funded property for campaigning? 

From the Arkansas Ethics Commission:

(e)    No public servant shall use for campaign purposes any item of personal property provided with public funds.[6]  “Campaign purposes” refers to the campaign of a candidate for public office and not efforts to support or oppose a ballot measure.

See the Suburban with the hatch popped?  And the truck with the lights on top?  Both county vehicles, paid for by you.  Being used for campaign purposes.

2. Were the two county employees pictured here asked to attend the event and were they being paid by the taxpayers?   We can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly a question worth asking.

Again, from the Commission:

(c)  No public servant shall coerce by threats or otherwise any public employee into devoting time or labor toward the campaign of any candidate for office or for the nomination to any office. [4]

(f)  No person shall assess any public employee for any political purpose whatever or coerce by threats or otherwise any public employee into making a subscription or contribution for any political purpose.[7]

I think the words “or otherwise” in Section (c) are problematic for the judge here.  Were the employees asked to attend?  Were they being paid?

Also, in Section (f), “No person shall assess any public employee for any political purpose whatever.”  The judge can say that this was not a “political” or campaign event, but by putting up a sign & wearing a campaign t-shirt, didn’t he make it one?

3.  There is a clear double standard in Judge Lincoln displaying his sign on public property.  I remember just a few short years ago when we had a rally on the courthouse lawn.  Someone attending the event asked the judge if they could display campaign signs.  He said yes, and then once they put them up, he went ballistic.  He even went so far as to call the police and tried to have the whole event shutdown.  He said, “I”m the keeper of the county grounds!  You can’t do this!”

Well judge, you may be the keeper of the county grounds, but that doesn’t excuse you from unethical activities.  You were probably right back in 2010 to not let the demonstrators post their signs on public property.  So do you still agree that this is an unethical practice?  If you do, then why would you do it?  Would you allow your opponent to do it?  Or do these special provisions only apply to yourself and those you support? 

Keep in mind, this is a judge who has already been charged with a violation by the Arkansas Ethics Commission for breaking the law, but he said he ‘still didn’t think he did anything wrong’ after the ruling was handed down.

And a judge who is pictured here with Tamara Jenkins, who misused hundreds of taxpayer dollars, who he consequently rewarded with the purchase of a $320,000 building at the all-time high price of $590,000!

And he is still defending her nobility.   So don’t expect any remorse from him after this incident.

And don’t think this is the first or only time that Judge Lincoln has used public property to promote his campaign.

No Ruling Yet from Arkansas Ethics Commission on White County Judge

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.

Nic Horton

White County Judge Going Before State Ethics Commission

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.

Nic Horton