Secretary of State Mark Martin prevented from hiring outside lawyer | Arkansas Blog

Monday, August 12, 2013

Secretary of State Mark Martin prevented from hiring outside lawyer

Posted By on Mon, Aug 12, 2013 at 10:13 AM

Matt Campbell, who's sued Secretary of State Mark Martin for failure to produce all public documents in his possession concerning his practice of hiring outside lawyers to represent the office, reports that Judge Tim Fox today granted his motion to disqualify two private lawyers, Chad Pekron and Joseph Price of the Quattlebaum firm, from representing Martin in the FOI case.

Campbell had cited law that
requires Martin to use the attorney general for representation, unless the attorney general gives approval of use of special counsel. Martin didn't seek such approval in this case and he has spent money repeatedly on outside counsel without such approval. He also has lawyers on staff.

Campbell said the response that Pekron and Price had filed for Martin in the FOI case had been stricken from the record as a result of today's ruling. Martin was given 20 days to file a new answer from in-house counsel. Campbell said Fox ruled that the hiring of Pekron and Price violated the plain language of state law.

Martin has avoided attorney general help, choosing instead to hire Republican lawyers for much of his work. Pekron had an additional connection to Martin as an appointee to the state Board of Election Commissioners. Martin is also a member of that board.

UPDATE: The decision in this case raises the question of whether Mark Martin has spent taxpayer money impermissibly and how much. Take a look at how his office's allotment for outside consulting fees has risen during his time in office, which began in early 2011

FY 2005-06: $44,136
2006-07: $44,136
2007-08: $60,886
2008-09: $60,886
2009-10: $63,748
2010-11: $62,956 (Martin had been in office a month when this passed)
2011-12: $160,456
2012-13: $205,956
2013-14: $265,012

Can any of that money be recovered if spent without permission on outside Republican attorneys? Such as the money sent to the law firm of Asa Hutchinson, the Republican gubernatorial candidate and one-time attorney general candidate who, you'd think, should have known better.

UPDATE: Asked for comment, a spokesman for Mark Martin said the office was working on an appeal.

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