Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Did Rep. Mary Bentley violate ethics standard in Game and Fish officer encounter?

Posted By on Wed, Nov 4, 2015 at 7:22 AM

click to enlarge THE BENTLEYS: Ted and Rep. Mary Bentley pose in House chamber. - FACEBOOK
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  • THE BENTLEYS: Ted and Rep. Mary Bentley pose in House chamber.
John Lyon at the Arkansas News Bureau reported on the encounter between state Rep. Mary Bentley and a state wildlife officer who said she made threatening remarks about financial retribution against the Game and Fish Commission when he accompanied a Forest Service officer serving her husband, Ted, with citations for violations of wildlife baiting and ATV rules in the Ouachita National Forest.

Bentley didn't return his messages either. We broke the story of the legislator reportedly throwing her weight around yesterday.

But Lyons did note:

Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-304(a) states, “No public servant shall use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or herself or his or her spouse, child, parents, or other persons standing in the first degree of relationship, or for those with whom he or she has a substantial financial relationship that are not available to others except as may be otherwise provided by law.”

Graham Sloan, executive director of the Arkansas Ethics Commission, said Tuesday that if the commission were to find that a public servant had violated the prohibition, it could issue a public letter of caution, warning or reprimand and/or impose a fine ranging from $50 to $2,000.

The commission also could refer the case to a prosecutor, Sloan said. State law classifies the offense as a misdemeanor.

Wildlife Officer Robert Stout wrote a report about backing up a Forest Service officer on a trip to the Bentley home near Perryville. It included his recitation of comments by Mary Bentley "that we (officer Davis and I) need to be real careful, that times were tough and money was tight and that they (House) are looking for places to get money for funding and the Game and Fish Commission would be a good place to look.” 

As I noted yesterday, Game and Fish is a constitutionally independent agency that operates on dedicated revenue from license fees and a sales tax. But the legislature appropriates the money, generally in perfunctory fashion.

Ted Bentley is a former candidate for sheriff in Perry County and has served on the Quorum Court.

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