Darr says he won't resign over ethics fines

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, right, is interviewed at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., as his wife Kim listens Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014. Darr said he won't resign over ethics violations tied to his campaign and office spending, despite growing calls for him to step down or face the threat of impeachment.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr said Tuesday that he won’t resign over ethics violations tied to his campaign and office spending, despite growing calls for him to step down or face the threat of impeachment.

 

Darr acknowledged to the Ethics Commission last week that he violated state ethics and campaign laws 11 times since 2010, and he agreed to pay $11,000 in fines — $1,000 for each violation. Darr downplayed the violations last week, contending that he didn’t profit from them personally. He did so again in a statement released Tuesday, calling them oversights and arguing that they weren’t done with malicious disregard to the law.

“It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come,” Darr said. “I am a normal citizen, who ran for office, who is trying to do my job to the best of my ability with integrity and character.”

Darr, a Republican, also floated a financial argument for him staying on as the state’s second-in-command.

“The cost of a special election would be in excess of one million dollars,” Darr said. “This cost coupled with the facts that I have outlined concerning my actions, convince me that I should stay in office. I believe that this course would be best for the state.”

Darr faces calls from the state’s Democratic governor and Republican members of the congressional delegation to resign. House Democrats have said they’ll try to impeach the lieutenant governor if he doesn’t step down.

The panel said it found probable cause that Darr made personal use of $31,572.74 in campaign funds, received excess contributions to retire his campaign debt, didn’t maintain adequate records, failed to itemize loan repayments and accepted improper reimbursement for travel expenses. A separate legislative audit last month cited more than $12,000 in improper expenses incurred by Darr’s office.

Darr signed a letter on Dec. 30 in which he agreed to pay the $11,000 Ethics Commission fine, and he has pledged to reimburse the state for findings in the legislative audit. The day after Darr agreed to the sanctions, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and the Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation called on Darr to resign.

Darr was elected in 2010 amid sweeping Republican gains in the state. In 2013, he announced a run for Congress, where he wanted to follow Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton, a Republican, is challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor this year.

But Darr didn’t stay in the race long. He dropped out in August amid questions about his spending.

Darr’s decision to stay will likely intensify the push among Democrats in the Republican-controlled Legislature to remove the lieutenant governor.

Under guidelines set in the state constitution, Darr would be suspended if 51 or more members of the House approve an article of impeachment. Senators would then hold a trial, with a two-thirds majority, or 24 of 35 votes, is necessary for a conviction that would permanently remove Darr from office.

The 100-member House has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one member of the Green Party. Two Republicans have called on Darr to quit but haven’t said whether they would join Democrats in an impeachment vote.

The Senate has 21 Republicans and 13 Democrats, with one vacancy set to be filled next Tuesday.

The top Democrat in the House has said his caucus will call for the lieutenant governor’s impeachment during the legislative session that begins next month if Darr doesn’t resign, but has acknowledged the move would need support from some Republicans to be successful. House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, has said he’d convene the House for impeachment proceedings if at least 51 members support the move. Carter has said so far no members have contacted him yet about that possibility.


 

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