Blogger Russ Racop reports that the Arkansas Ethics Commission voted 3-2 today to find that Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones had unintentionally violated the state ethics law in giving $300,000 worth of free trips to Cowboy games to North Little Rock police officers. He’ll get a letter to that effect.
Jones appeared before the commission and, in what Racop said were emotional remarks, said he didn’t view the gifts as a reward for police work but to send a positive message of the work
According to Racop, Commissioner Sybil Hampton, former director of the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, made the motion for a finding of an unintentional violation. Joining Hampton in the vote were commissioners Ashley Younger, a Little Rock lawyer, and Alice Eastwood, a lawyer and ethics officer for Walmart. Voting no
A letter to Jones was the only action possible under the law for a
When Gibbons settled, the document acknowledged a law
State law prohibits gifts to public employees for performance of work.
Racop said he didn’t intend to “get police officers in trouble. I didn’t even try to stop them from going to the game. It was just the rule of law, something that shouldn’t be given.”
The staff of the Ethics Commission came to that same conclusion in making a finding of probable cause to believe a violation had occurred. Jones’ refusal to accept a settlement put it before the commission for final adjudication. Even staff remarks praised Jones’ good works in arguing for a finding of violation, Racop said.
It developed in the hearing today that Gibbons had talked to Dolan, a former prosecutor in Pulaski County, at a Cowboys game and her introduction of Gibbons to Jones put the gift in motion. 120 of 178 officers took trips, along with various friends and family at a cost estimated to be at least $300,000.
Ethics commissioners are appointed by the governor (Eastwood), lieutenant governor (Younger), House speaker (Juneau), attorney general and Senate president pro tem (Trusty). Hampton is the only commissioner appointed by a Democrat, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, who coincidentally argued early on that there was nothing improper about the gifts and who represented Gibbons.
Important bottom line: There’s now precedent on gift giving, whether to cops, mayors or pollution inspectors.
Here’s the motion the Commission adopted, though Commission director said he’d substitute the phrase “written guidance” for warning in Item 3.