More responses to Lt. Gov. Mark Darr’s admission of 11 ethical violations and acceptance of an $11,000 fine (a stiffer penalty than given Sen. Paul Bookout before he voluntarily resigned over similar ethical misdeeds):
* REPUBLICAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE ASA HUTCHINSON: Ethical violations are not enough for Hutchinson to call for Darr’s resignation. (Darr has a long, close history with the many-faceted extended Hutchinson clan in Northwest Arkansas). Instead, he says resignation is called for only if a prosecutor finds evidence of criminal violations. His statement:
“In the case of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, the ethical violations are troubling and serious and should be reviewed by the prosecuting attorney. As a former prosecutor, I understand the importance of holding public officials accountable for improper conduct. In my view, the public has a right to expect the highest level of ethical conduct by its elected officials and the public should demand resignation when criminal conduct has occurred. It should be noted that only a prosecutor or grand jury can assess the question of criminal conduct and whether there is probable cause for criminal charges. It is my understanding that the Pulaski County prosecutor is reviewing the ethical violations of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr. It is important that the prosecutor assess the violations to determine whether criminal conduct has occurred and charges should be filed. If criminal charges are filed then a resignation should be demanded. Until then, we should let the process work and expect the decision of the Ethics Commission in terms of fine and amended reports to be fulfilled.”
I’d note, too, that Asa didn’t get “troubled” when Legislative Audit (whose chief counsel is a partisan Republican) found multiple illegal expenditures by Darr of his taxpayer-funded office expense account.
Asa’s waffling is in stark contrast to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Ross:
Our elected officials must be held to the highest possible standard, and they must have the people’s absolute trust and confidence in order to effectively do their jobs. Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr has admitted he improperly spent campaign and taxpayer dollars, and therefore he should act in the best interest of the state of Arkansas and resign immediately.
Representative Nate Steel, candidate for Attorney General, today joins the voices of Governor Mike Beebe and others calling for the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr. Darr recently acknowledged ethics violations and settled with the Ethics Commission.
“As Attorney General, I will call balls and strikes as I see them. Our public officials are held to a higher standard and must live up to the trust Arkansans have put in them,” Rep. Steel said. “The people of Arkansas deserve public servants who put the public interest ahead of their own.”
“I call on my fellow candidates for Attorney General to condemn the behavior of the Lt. Governor and stand with me in my support of honesty and integrity in public office,” Steel said. He added, “Partisanship has no place when it comes to public trust.” Steel supported the resignation of State Treasurer Martha Shoffner and State Senator Paul Bookout, both Democrats, when they were found to have violated ethics laws.
“This is why I’m running for Attorney General. As a prosecutor, a legislator, and as our next Attorney General, I have and will always let the facts speak for themselves.”
* CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS: They didn’t temporize. A joint statment from the four Republican U.S. representatives and Sen. John Boozman said:
“As elected officials, we are keepers of the public trust. We are bound by a very strict code of conduct that is the basis of that trust. Based on Lt. Governor Darr’s own admissions, it is clear he has violated that trust, and he should step down immediately for the good of our state.”
* REPUBLICAN PARTY CHAIR — Eh: Doyle Webb, whose party apparatus lobbied furiously and immediately for resignations of Democrats in ethical binds, jioins Asa in temporizing. Only a criminal charge justifies resignation. For a Republican anyway. That was not the Bookout standard. I need remind you that Webb’s own sleazy record might play a role in his outlook. Webb’s statement, provided to Talk Business:
“The Republican Party of Arkansas stands for holding our public officials to the highest standard of ethical conduct. Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr has appropriately admitted to his ethics violations, has apologized to the people of Arkansas, and has begun the process of paying restitution for his mistakes and correcting his campaign finance reports. All these actions have been taken for the purpose of restoring the public’s trust in his service as Lieutenant Governor. We are confident that any further legal review or investigation will be conducted appropriately and that if criminal charges are warranted we will request his resignation immediately,” Webb said.
* MISSING IN ACTION: Do the Republican candidates for attorney general, David Sterling and Leslie Rutledge, believe in a higher standard for public officials.? Or do they, like Asa Hutrchinson, think illegal expense account use and double-digit ethics violations are not worthy of resignation? They seek to be the state’s top legal officer. What are THEIR standards?
Debate continues on whether — should Darr resign — there’s an option on calling a special election to fill the remainder of the term. State law sets out a clear time frame for holding a special election once a vacancy is declared, within 150 days. But I’m not sure the statute is so clear on mandating the governor to declare a vacancy within a specified time period, though there’s certainly room to read it that way and speedy action has been the practice. More than 150 days remained in the year when Winthrop Paul Rockefeller died in 2006, but the parties agreed not to seek to fill the office and no vacancy was declared. By picking a nominee at a convention, rather than a primary, the process can be consderably accelerated. There is expense to holding an election, particularly with primaries, in the millions. A vacancy in the office could cost Darr’s staff their jobs, not to mention give a potential political leg up to Democrat John Burkhalter, as I mentioned earlier. This is all speculative unless Darr resigns. Then timing becomes important. All this is likely moot if there is a vacancy because Beebe will declare a vacancy.
Read the statute yourself on the jump.
7-7-105. Filling vacancies in certain offices — Special primary elections.
(a) Nominees for special elections called for the purpose of filling a vacancy in office for a member of the United States House of Representatives, Lieutenant Governor, or for a member of the Senate or House of Representatives of the General Assembly shall be chosen as follows:
(1) The Governor shall certify in writing to the state committees of the respective political parties the fact of vacancy and shall request the respective state committees to make a determination and notify him or her in writing within ten (10) days with respect to whether the political parties desire to hold a special primary election or a convention of delegates held under party rules to choose nominees;
(2) (A) If the state committee of any political party timely notifies the Governor that it chooses to hold a special primary election, any political party desiring to choose a nominee shall choose the nominee at a special primary election.
(B) The Governor’s proclamation shall set dates for the special primary election and the runoff primary election to be held if no candidate receives a majority of the vote at the special primary election; and
(3) (A) A special election to fill the vacancy in office shall be held on a date as soon as possible after the vacancy occurs, but not more than one hundred fifty (150) days after the occurrence of the vacancy.
(B) The special election shall be held in accordance with laws governing special elections.
(C) (i) If a nominee is to be chosen at a special primary election and if, after the close of the filing period, only one (1) or two (2) candidates have filed for the nomination of a party holding a primary, the state committee of a party holding a primary shall notify the Governor.
(ii) The Governor shall issue a new proclamation setting the special election for an earlier date so long as the earlier date is in accordance with state laws governing special elections.
(b) If no state committee of any political party timely notifies the Governor of the desire to hold a special primary election or convention, the Governor, in issuing his or her proclamation calling for the special election, shall declare that the nominee of a political party shall be chosen at a convention.