Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) gave few clues about the day’s proceedings before he called members into an executive session, but by now, everyone knows the narrative.
Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) was mistakenly paid mileage for meetings she attended only virtually. Flowers is said to have reached out to the Senate staff about these payments that she suspected were sent her way in error. Initially, the story goes, Flowers was told the payments were correct. When it was revealed down the line that in fact senators who attended meetings by Zoom were not eligible for expenses, Flowers immediately paid the money back.
Sen. Alan Clark (R-Hot Springs/Lonsdale) — recently humiliated after getting busted having Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Ferndale) sign him in for a meeting he did not actually attend in hopes of collecting mileage and per diem expenses — took this opportunity to go on the offensive and filed a complaint against Flowers.
Clark and Flowers have a famously contentious relationship that went on national display in 2019. In a Senate committee meeting, Flowers gave an emotional plea against a “stand your ground” bill she worried would be used as an excuse to kill young Black men. Clark, chair of the committee, tried to silence Flowers, an effort to which she famously responded, “What are you gonna do, shoot me?” So yeah, there’s a fraught history there.
Could this be more of a personal vendetta than an actual ethics concern? One clue might be this: Trent Garner, a Republican senator from El Dorado, was also mistakenly paid for meetings he did not attend in person, Mike Wickline at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports. But Clark did not file an ethics complaint against Garner.
Hammer said committee members would be meeting through lunch, and that he would put the word out before the committee reconvenes in public to take any votes or announce any decisions.