Category: White County

Update: Political Sign Removed From Searcy School Grounds

The aforementioned A&P tax sign

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.

Nic Horton

Niblock Launches New Ad Against A&P Tax

Greg Niblock, the local attorney who represented the people against the city of Searcy when they were illegally denied their right to vote on the 2010 A&P tax, has launched a new radio ad against the latest A&P tax proposal. Niblock is also a candidate for Justice of the Peace in White County and pledges to fight tax increases if elected to the quorum court:

You can learn more about Greg at his website, NiblockForJP.com, or on Facebook.

Searcy Police Chief Renting Apartment With Campaign Funds

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.

Read the full story at The Arkansas Project.

Rep. Tiffany Rogers Is a Double-Dipper

Service in the state legislature is a part-time job. The yearly compensation is $15,689 (although that doesn’t include per diem payments), and it’s understood that legislators will probably find other employment when the General Assembly is not in session.

But legislators must obey state law. Legislators who also hold a state government job can’t accept two different paychecks for the same work period. It’s OK to get one paycheck for Monday’s work and a second paycheck for Tuesday’s work, but if you’re getting paid from two different sources for working the same work period, it’s a problem. Similarly, if you’re a legislator who is paid to be in a non-legislative state government office doing a non-legislative state government job, but you’re actually doing legislative work or political work, it’s a problem.

Accepting payment for Job 1 while actually doing Job 2 is known informally as “double-dipping.” Legislators aren’t supposed to do it: as one of George Costanza’s antagonists once said, you’re supposed to “just take one dip and end it.” Rep. Tiffany Rogers appears to have broken this rule repeatedly.

As the Director of Continuing Education for Phillips Community College, Rep. Tiffany Rogers is paid, on average, about $40,000 a year. That yearly salary figure would ordinarily be about $10,000 higher – except that, when the legislature is in session, Rogers usually takes an unpaid personal leave of absence. There’s nothing wrong with that – someone in her position would customarily take unpaid leave so as to eliminate the double-dipping that would be caused by accepting multiple paychecks for the same work. However, public records demonstrate that Rogers has repeatedly neglected to reduce her compensation from Phillips Community College while doing legislative or political work. In fact, she appears to have taken after George Costanza on at least four occasions.

Read the full story at The Arkansas Project.

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.