Monday, August 25, 2014

Mark Darr's state debt referred to the attorney general

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 10:24 AM

click to enlarge PURSUING DARR: Mark Darr, shown here fleeing reporters after an Ethics Commission hearing last year, still owes the state for improper expense reimbursements.
  • PURSUING DARR: Mark Darr, shown here fleeing reporters after an Ethics Commission hearing last year, still owes the state for improper expense reimbursements.
Mark Darr, who resigned as lieutenant governor Feb. 1 amid controversy over his abuse of state and campaign expenses accounts, still hasn't repaid more than $10,000 in improper expenses he charged to the state.

Legislative Audit referred the issue last month to the attorney general's office. I've sought a response for its plans, if any.

The state auditor's office confirmed for me today that Darr has made no payments on the $9,836 Legislative Audit found Darr owed for improperly charging the state, primarily for commutes to his home in Springdale. Darr previously had been found guilty of state ethics violations for using his campaign money for personal expenses. He's been paying $11,000 in fines in installments of $1,000 a month. He's on schedule, having made seven of 11 payments, a spokesman for the commission said.

Darr is listed on the sales staff at Crain Hyundai in Springdale. I've sent him a message there seeking comment.

Rep. Kim Hammer, co-chair of the legislature's Joint Audit Committee, wrote Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in July, and asked for a response by Aug. 1, on whether he planned any action to recover money Darr owed the state ($10,973 in this letter, an amount reflecting some $1,100 in improper expenses that Darr had reimbursed by a check that was lost but was never replaced).

Roger Norman, director of Legislative Audit, also included letters sent to Darr by the state auditor seeking payment and a copy of a letter sent by the state Insurance Department to Pulaski Prosecutor Larry Jegley. It said when it received word whether any criminal prosecution was planned, it could proceed with a claim with the Arkansas Governmental Bonding Board for coverage of the loss. If there were to be a prosecution, the letter requested that the prosecutor attempt to make restitution a part of any sentence.

For good measure, Norman included, at Hammer's request, a letter he sent to the attorney general in May asking whether any potential for recovery exists for Martha Shoffner's handling of treasurer's duties. She resigned after being indicted for taking payments from a bond dealer who received a disproportionate share of state business. She's since been convicted and awaits trial on charges related to her use of campaign money. While auditors were critical of Shoffner's trading practices, the audits didn't turn up evidence of illegal activity. Her criminal charges arose from the bond dealer's cooperation with the FBI. He wore a wire when he delivered a last cash payment to Shoffner of $6,000, in a box with an apple pie.

Here's the letter to McDaniel to recover money from Darr.
Here's the letter about potential bond coverage.
Here's the letter from the auditor's office to Darr.
Here's the letter to McDaniel about recovery from Martha Shoffner.

I'm awaiting responses from Jegley and the attorney general's office. Legislative Audit said it had received no responses from McDaniel to Hammer's letters.

UPDATE: Jegley says his office still has the matter under review.

McDaniel's office released a letter dated Aug. 1 to Hammer that said his office was prepared to file a lawsuit to recover the money Darr owes, as the law allows.  But McDaniel's spokesman, Aaron Sadler, added: "Please note that we have talked to Mr. Darr and we anticipate that this debt will be resolved very soon, without any need for litigation."

As to Shoffner, McDaniel's letter mentioned a discussion with Hammer and an agreement that any state legal action should await completion of her criminal trial, now scheduled in late December.

Here's McDaniel's letter.

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