Pine Bluff alderman fined by Ethics Commission for late reports | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pine Bluff alderman fined by Ethics Commission for late reports

Posted By on Sun, May 14, 2017 at 7:59 AM

Pine Bluff Alderman Thelma Walker has settled an ethics complaint over late filing of campaign finance report by accepting a letter of caution and a $150 fine.

The complaint was brought by Stu Soffer, a Republican Party activist who shared the Ethics Commission letter outlining the agreement.

Walker was late by anywhere from 85 to 765 days in the filing of required campaign finance reports on five occasions in the 2014 and 2016 elections, the letter says.

Soffer gave this prepared statement:

“This is not the first time the ethics commission has cautioned and fined Alderwomen Thelma Walker. In Case No. 2013-CO-028, on November 8, 2013, she was fined $200 and issued a Letter of Caution for essentially the same violations. If Pine Bluff is to succeed with “Go Forward”, voters are going to have to remove those who violate the public trust from office.”

My own comment: It is self-evident, and not only from this case, that the limited punishment available to the Ethics Commission isn't always sufficient to encourage compliance with the law.  The Republican-majority legislature has also passed a get-out-of-jail-free provision that allows legislators to amend incorrect reports when it is called to their attention. In these cases, there's little chance of even a slap on the wrist.

Democratic legislators made several efforts to stiffen ethics laws during the 2017 legislative session but were turned back repeatedly by majority Republicans. Notably, Republican Rep. Josh Miller won a rare "do not pass" recommendation on a bill to increase penalties for using campaign money for personal expenses.

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