Lt. Gov. office responds to FOI: Not much happening and Darr still owes state money | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lt. Gov. office responds to FOI: Not much happening and Darr still owes state money

Posted By on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge SHOW US THE MONEY: Note from audit staff.
  • SHOW US THE MONEY: Note from audit staff.

click to enlarge MARK WHO? Response from office.
  • MARK WHO? Response from office.

click to enlarge GOT IT: Final note.
  • GOT IT: Final note.

It took a couple of days of pestering — and I never did get a direct response from Chief of Staff Bruce Campbell — but Amber Pool, who handles communications for the office of the lieutenant governor (there hasn't been one since Feb. 1) did respond to my request for leave records, e-mail and other material that could reflect activities in the leaderless office.

Bottom line: I hope they bring some books to read or crosswords to work. Not much happening. Some routine notices of governmental meetings irrelevant to office operations came through e-mail. One letter from a student. Some e-mail from Black Helicopter Queen Debbie Pelley of Jonesboro bearing her voting recommendations.

The records produced showed no office-generated work.

The documents did turn up the news that Republican Mark Darr, who resigned Feb. 1 in an expense account scandal, still has not repaid the money a Legislative Audit says he owes for billing the state for personal expenses. It seeks $9,836, mostly for charging the state for mileage for commutes to his home in Springdale, but also for some other improper travel expenses for himself and an employee.

You'll see that the office response to an inquiry was that Darr doesn't work there any more.

I checked with the state auditor's office. A spokesman confirmed that the auditor hasn't received any payment from Darr for the amount Legislative Audit says he owes. The auditor's office sent a letter to him May 8 at his Springdale address asking that he repay the $9,836 that Legislative Audit said he owed by the end of the fiscal year, on June 30. He has been making installment payments on $11,000 in fines by the state Ethics Commission for converting campaign money illegally to personal use. He has taken steps to square the campaign account.

As yet, there's been no word of any criminal investigation of Darr's illegal use of campaign and state money for personal use. A criminal investigation is nearing completion of former Democratic Sen. Paul Bookout for use of campaign money for personal expenses. State law makes such violations misdemeanors, but federal investigators are also looking at the case. Under federal law, use of a credit card, telephone and mail in furtherance of obtaining public money improperly can be leveraged into a more serious charge. There are also potential tax implications in  receiving such money if it isn't declared as taxable income. Bookout was a bigger scofflaw, in terms of spending, than Darr. He spent tens of thousands on purely personal things, from clothes to home furnishings.

The FOI request turned up a monthly accounting of the lieutenant governor's office cost to taxpayers. It's around $25,000 a month — $26,746.77 in April, to be precise — for the salaries for four employees, costs of their benefits and office expenses. The four employees  — Bruce Campbell ($75,132 annual salary); Amber Pool ($57,564); Josh Curtis ($51,564), and Raeanne Gardner ($33,660) — have worked continuously with no boss and limited duties since Feb. 1. They apparently plan to continue to do so until June 30, unless something better comes along. I don't know many no-work jobs at those pay levels, but you never know.

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