North Little Rock City Attorney Jason Carter has filed with the state Ethics Commission a formal defense of the expensive gift Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave to all city police — a free trip to a Cowboys game. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that here.
Carter repeats in the official filing the same thing that he told me weeks ago. While state law couldn’t be clearer that gifts to public servants for doing their job are prohibited, including honorary recognition worth more than $100, Carter argues that the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Jones gift were legalized by a City Council resolution declaring the gifts to be city income and benefits.
Carter may slide this by the state Ethics Commission, which probably will be reluctant to say the law means what it says. The Jones gift was widely applauded. That it could provide a future template for less savory rewards is a bridge unlikely to be crossed.
But I do want to repeat what I said previously about this effort to sidestep the ethics law. If these gifts — worth thousands of dollars each to the officers who accepted the tickets, transportation, hotel and other items for themselves and family — are city income, are they not taxable?
Carter said this about that when I talked with him in October.
I don’t feel qualified to say what should or should not be deemed taxable income. That’s something that our police officers should consider when accepting the benefits.
Also: as bestower of the benefit, is the city required to report it?
Blogger Russ Racop, who filed the ethics complaint, has said that records produced under the FOI showed that 120 of 178 officers took advantage of the gift. Counting family, 367 people got trips, that Racop calculated were worth more than $300,000. This didn’t include time of police officers who spent work time handling the complicated logistics for arranging the trips on different game days.