So Faulkner County Clerk Margaret Darter yesterday took a plea bargain she was offered more than a year ago for falsifying public official financial statement filings so the officials wouldn’t have to face discipline for missing deadlines.
She’ll pay a $500 fine and $170 in costs for a misdemeanor charge of obstructing governmental operations. She also resigned from office for the last three months of the year. But she can and will run for re-election, The crime could have earned her 30 days in jail.
Noted: A special prosecutor handled the case because the local prosecutor, Cody Hiland recused. Darter is a Republican. Hiland is a Republican. Hiland passed the case to Ken Casady, the Saline prosecutor, who is a Republican. (Yes, I know prosecutors no longer run under partisan labels but make no mistake about these prosecutors’ leanings.)
Darter volunteered to prevent embarrassment for local members of the Quorum Court by backdating their filings last year so they appeared to have been filed on time.
You want a dishonest lawbreaker as your county clerk, don’t you? That’s the question in Faulkner County, which has trended strongly Republican in recent years. The GOP vote is reflexive in many cases, regardless of record of the candidate. See the continuing fervor for Donald Trump in Arkansas.
Darter told the Democrat-Gazette’s Debra Hale Shelton that she simply has a passion for “helping people” and was overzealous in her compassion. Yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing I’d be concerned about when Darter oversees elections among other duties— an overzealousness in helping people, particularly those with Rs after their name.
I’d note that Faulkner County is also overzealous in extending what I believe to be unlawful secrecy for parties in divorce cases, particularly when they are well-connected Republicans such as Mike Maggio or Gilbert Baker and you get a Republican judge such as now Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood. You may search in vain in the clerk’s office for such records.
Penny McClung, a Democrat, is also seeking the office. She has no criminal record. Does that matter in Faulkner County? Watch this space Nov. 8.