Judge approves legislative expense reimbursement settlement | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Judge approves legislative expense reimbursement settlement

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2012 at 4:18 PM

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Chris Piazza today approved a settlement agreement in the Arkansas Public Law Center's legal effort to end the salary supplements most state legislators receive.

Max is a member of the Arkansas Public Law Center.

See a release from the APLC on the jump.

LITTLE ROCK, April 3, 2012 — The Arkansas Public Law Center applauds the ruling issued today at a hearing in the Pulaski County Circuit Court by Judge Chris Piazza approving a settlement agreement in the APLC's lawsuit concerning legislative expense reimbursements. The APLC filed suit last September in an effort to end the salary supplementation procedures of most legislators. Attorneys for the APLC argued that these procedures violated Arkansas law and Amendment 70 of the Arkansas Constitution. Judge Piazza agreed.

"Today we are pleased with the settlement approved by Judge Piazza," said Kathy Wells of Little Rock, a plaintiff in the case. "The settlement agreement serves the public interest by ending the legislative practice of collecting reimbursements for expenses that were not incurred and/or undocumented." This was a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all Arkansas taxpayers.

Attorneys and financial experts on both sides have worked diligently over the last several months to come up with an agreement that is fair to all parties involved, including Arkansas taxpayers. Under the agreement, both chambers of the Arkansas General Assembly will implement changes to their own Accountable Reimbursement Plans. Each plan will meet IRS guidelines with regard to proper itemization and documentation of expenses actually incurred and ensure that legislators do not receive income in violation of Amendment 70.

Moreover, a certified public accountant will conduct periodic reviews to verify that the reimbursement practices are in compliance with the law and IRS regulations. These results will be public record. If it turns out that the reimbursement plans are not being followed, the APLC has three (3) years during which it can enforce the settlement agreement.

Mike Lauro, president of the APLC, emphasized that the purpose of the lawsuit was to pave the way for more accountable and transparent government. "As a public interest advocacy group, the APLC wanted to end this illegal practice and start requiring proper documentation for legislative expenses. Taxpayers deserve to know where funds from the state treasury are going. We support adequate salaries for public officials that are openly set and disbursed on the record. It may be time to review the salaries set in the Arkansas Constitution."

Judge Piazza also heard, but took no action on, objections to the fairness of the settlement agreement. One objection noted that the settlement agreement does not go far enough to halt other questionable expense policies. However, according to APLC attorney Bettina Brownstein, "our lawsuit went as far as we could given the current state of the law on legislative expense reimbursements. To the extent that there may be other problems in government, our lawsuit cannot address every issue."

Tags: ,


Sign up for the Daily Update email
Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

Readers also liked…

  • Your daily dose of Jason Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert really, really didn't like it when a KATV reporter asked him about the hypocrisy of his political arguments.
    • Feb 4, 2017
  • Arkansas legislature rejects bipartisan effort to study race relations

    On Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council soundly rejected a bipartisan effort by two senators to to create a temporary legislative subcommittee to study race relations in the state.
    • Sep 15, 2017
  • Campus gun bill clears committee

    The so-called compromise amendment that will allow anyone 25 or older with a training certificate carry a concealed weapon on public college campuses was approved in a Senate committee this afternoon.
    • Feb 21, 2017

People who saved…

Most Viewed

  • Proposed child holding site in Arkansas 5 miles from WWII Japanese-American internment camp

    One big difference between Rohwer and today: The parents kept at Rohwer in World War II weren't separated from their children.
  • LR woman sues Louisville police over failures in rape investigation

    Salisa Luster Harrison, who now lives in Little Rock, Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Louisville, Ky., alleging multiple failures by the Louisville police investigating a sexual assault of her more than 10 years ago.
  • Baby gorilla born at zoo

    The Little Rock Zoo has a happy announcement: The birth of a healthy baby gorilla. The baby, whose sex has not been determined, was born to Sekani, who came to the zoo in 2004 from Toronto; her baby is her third. The father of the baby is a silverback, Kivu, and he is being "very attentive" to his first child, the zoo reports. Kivu came to the zoo in 2016 from Santa Barbara.

Most Recent Comments

Slideshows

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation