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.
The Mayor of Letona, Mr. Sherrel Bennett, called me a little upset after reading Judge Parish’s letter last week outlining how Judge Mike Lincoln has been paving roads inside incorporated cities–a claim that everyone seems to agree on. The disagreement seems to come when we start discussing who is paying for these improvements: Mr. Parish says the county is paying for the improvements, at the expense of all county taxpayers. Mr. Bennett says the city reimbursed the county.
I made a follow-up call to Mr. Parish after talking to Mr. Bennett. He said whether or not the city pays for the improvements is irrelevant, contending that it is illegal for the county to essentially act as a contractor and do jobs-for-hire for cities–something I suspect local contractors might be a little upset about, whether it is legal or not.
Now, I do not pretend to have the answer to these legal questions. It is something I have intended to research but have not had time. Perhaps one of our legal-minded readers can weigh in. But I did tell Mr. Bennett that I would allow him to give his side of the story if he would submit something in writing. Below is the text of his letter. Continue reading
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:
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the potential legal implications of the White County Judge’s documented actions. Let’s see what the law actually says on the matter. It’s far more serious than some commenters on previous posts have portrayed it.
The items Mr. Horton quoted are all found in Arkansas Code 7-1-103 “Miscellaneous misdemeanor offenses — Penalties.”
The violation regarding the sign on the truck is covered under 7-1-103(a)(6):
“It shall be unlawful for any campaign banners, campaign signs, or other campaign literature to be placed on any cars, trucks, tractors, or other vehicles belonging to the State of Arkansas or any municipality, county, or school district in the state”
The penalty section is very interesting as well:
(b) (1) Except as otherwise provided, the violation of any provision of this section shall be a Class A misdemeanor.
(2) (A) Any person convicted under the provisions of this section shall thereafter be ineligible to hold any office or employment in any of the departments in this state.
(B) (i) If any person is convicted under the provisions of this section while employed by any of the departments of this state, he or she shall be removed from employment immediately.
(ii) If any person is convicted under the provisions of this section while holding public office, the conviction shall be deemed a misfeasance and malfeasance in office and shall subject the person to impeachment.
So, if Judge Lincoln has taken these actions he is in fact guilty of a misdemeanor which means he should be removed from office for misfeasance and malfeasance and ineligible to run for office in the future. The irony is that this depends on a prosecutor (whose budget is determined by the County) being willing to prosecute the judge for a clearly provable offense.
Scott Biddle is a guest contributor to The Arkansas Patriot.
- The Patriot & Editor were honored by Searcy’s highly-esteemed newspaper of record in a Sunday editorial. You should read this post, especially if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been referring to myself as a ‘failed city council candidate’ a lot this week.
- TMZARK defends their social media policy. They hear us, they just don’t care. No really, they think this is a good strategy. Death is really good for their ratings!
- One of our most loyal readers has some questions for the Searcy paper. It’s amazing how partisan they were while deriding The Patriot as an example of “partisan politics at their worst” and “partisanship run amok.”
- The Arkansas Republican House caucus unveiled their strategy platform. Yeah, this happened like three weeks ago, but Bobby Petrino hijacked the news cycle and it didn’t get nearly enough coverage.
- Do drug testing requirements for welfare applicants constitute an ‘unfair search?’ The ACLU thinks so. SHOCKER.
- We’re going to vet the judge. You really will not want to miss this series of forthcoming articles about the White County Judge’s governing record.
- Governor Beebe controls the Searcy media? They’re singing a lovely harmony to his political dirge in Friday’s paper, generating a story that the bypass project may not be completed and of course, if it doesn’t, it’s all Senator Dismang’s fault.
- Nic joined The Paul Harrell Program for a great discussion about policy & politics in Arkansas. This 20 minute interview is good stuff.
- Governor Beebe has some great advice for Arkansas politicians: ‘Act like adults.’ Perhaps he should consider leading by example.
I contacted State Senator Jonathan Dismang yesterday evening after learning of Governor Beebe’s unhinged comments about the Searcy bypass project.
The senator tells me he is confident that the trucker tax exemption will not effect the project:
I have talked to 3 commissioners and the director who have all repeatedly indicated that our project will not be impacted by the funding shortage created by the trucker tax exemption.
The director he’s referring to is the director of the Arkansas Highway Department, if I understood correctly. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
In my estimation, this is further evidence that Governor Beebe is simply playing a sick political game & using a sensitive issue in his hometown to take cheap shots at Dismang. Truly ironic comments from a governor who has repeatedly spoken out against “DC politics,” and said this last fall:
“You elect people to work together to solve the problem. And you may not agree on every issue and you may not get your way on every issue. And while I’m not suggesting that you prostitute your principles, I am suggesting that you act like adults and that you try to resolve our nation’s problems…
“If the people in Washington, D.C., would take a lesson from the people in Arkansas, we could solve a lot of these problems a lot earlier.”
Seems to me that the people in DC are acting like the folks in Arkansas and that is the problem. Perhaps the governor should take his own advice and start acting like an adult.