I called Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley about the recent Legislative Audit finding of improper expenditure of state expense money by Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, a matter that has been forwarded to him.
He may also before long have information to consider, too, from the state Ethics Commission. It became known today that it is on the cusp of finding violations of ethics laws by Darr in campaign finance reports, particularly for personal use of campaign contributions.
Jegley said this when I asked him about a potential review of Darr:
“Not only that, but some other issues have led me to consider convening a grand jury to look at this and some other unspecified matters pertaining to state officials.”
He said he might have a letter out this week asking the Quorum Court for a supplemental appropriation to finance such a grand jury. He wouldn’t answer other questions on the Darr case or what other items might be of interest. Matt Campbell at Blue Hog Report, to name one, though, has asked Jegley to review Secretary of State Mark Martin’s hiring of outside counsel for legal work without getting the statutorily required approval from the attorney general.
There’s lots of work for Arkansas prosecutors from public official actions. We’re still awaiting a report from Jack McQuary, appointed a special prosecutor in Jonesboro, to review thousands of dollars in personal spending of campaign money by former Sen. Paul Bookout. That inquiry could produce dozens of misdemeanor charges, one for each instance of personal expense. But rumors continue that federal investigators have taken an interest in that case. Mail fraud statutes, sometimes applicable when credit cards or other uses of the mail are involved in expenses, could provide an opening in otherwise misdemeanor-limit state campaign finance cases.
For the record: Prosecutors now run without party affiliation, but Jegley has run in the past as a Democrat. Darr and Martin are Republicans. Bookout is a Democrat. Martha Shoffner, the former state treasurer facing federal charges, is a Democrat and being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer, a former Democratic legislator.
Wrong is wrong. Bookout and Shoffner properly resigned and prosecutorial reviews were wholly in order. The same is true for Republican misdeeds. To date, however, Republican officials haven’t been heard to hold a similarly bipartisan view of public corruption. No party leader has called for action against any but Democrats.
Here’s what Democratic Party Chair Vince Insalaco said about today’s news on Darr:
“Today’s preliminary hearing on Darr’s misuse of campaign funds adds more evidence to the growing pile of his reckless and unethical spending. Mark Darr’s flippant attitude toward the law is offensive. If the potential violations are true, then he has misused more taxpayer and campaign funds than the majority of Arkansans make in a year.”