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Darr rejects calls to resigns, says mistakes were ‘unintentional’

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Anyone who thought Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, R-Ark., would resign from office Tuesday (Jan. 7) was mistaken.

In a lengthy statement, Darr said he was not only staying put but he went to great lengths to challenge what he said were inaccurate representations of his actions in the media about his admitted misspending of nearly $44,000 in campaign and state funds. As a result of his admitted misspending, Darr has been slapped with an $11,000 fine for 11 different violations of state ethics laws.

"I am not downplaying what has occurred, but there is no scandal, no conspiracy and no malicious intentional disregard of the law. If there were, it would apparently involve multiple offices and agencies," he said. "It was an oversight that should have been noticed and corrected long before now and by multiple people including myself." (His full statement is included at the end of this story.)

Darr said since questions were raised regarding his campaign contribution and expense reports, first reported by liberal blogger Matt Campbell on the Blue Hog Report, he has worked hard to fix errors in his reports.

"Over the past few months I have been diligently working with various state offices to correct errors that were either directly or indirectly my responsibility, but are no more than unintentional mistakes. I have walked through the process, worked cooperatively, and taken responsibility, but the facts have not been accurately presented to the public," he said, adding that he was sorry for the mistakes before adding, "and I will now share the actual facts."

Darr said he loaned $170,000 to his campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010, adding that expenses highlighted in media reports were attempts to repay the loans to himself, adding that he "had every legal right to raise money and retire that debt."

"This is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I erred in how I reported those payments and fundraising activities, which has been incorrectly interpreted as my using campaign funds for personal use. …I want you to know that at the end of the day, the only money that ever came back to me, in whatever form, was a repayment of campaign debt that was legally owed to me."

Regarding the reimbursement of personal travel expenses, Darr said any reimbursements were for official travel, though he still committed errors in his reporting.

"The error was using my home (in Springdale) as the point of origin instead of the Capitol building."

Darr also said he had saved Arkansas taxpayers money due to his use of a personal vehicle for travel instead of the Arkansas State Police, which he said he is given as a constitutional privilege — the same as the governor.

"This means that I could have spent tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money over the past three years by using the Arkansas State Police to provide transportation and security. I could have also purchased, like my predecessor (former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, D-Ark.), a state vehicle which would cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars. Instead, I decided to use my personal vehicle and was reimbursed mileage an average of $3,000 per year over the past three years. This saved the taxpayers of Arkansas countless tax dollars."

The lieutenant governor said there was no notice given to his office that he must use the capitol building in Little Rock as his point of origin on travel reimbursements. He said a previous annual audit found no irregularities.

Darr addressed the personal use of state credit cards last, saying that the purchases "either for official state use or used by mistake while traveling."

"As soon as the errors were realized, I reimbursed the state for those charges. For some unknown reason, it appears that the State Auditor’s office failed to deposit one of the checks, for which I have proof of payment. I will gladly resubmit this check."

Even though the calls for Darr's resignation have been bi-partisan from Little Rock to Washington and all across Arkansas, he said the facts he presented in his e-mail to reporters did not merit his removal from office, adding that they were also "not worthy of personal attacks on my character and on my family." Several media outlets, including The City Wire, have also asked Darr to resign.

The cost of a special election to fill his position, he said, would run in excess of $1 million, yet another reason Darr said he should stay in office, saving the Arkansas taxpayer money.

"I believe that this course would be best for the state."

Darr said he was not staying in office due to the title or needing a job, but instead he would fight the political establishment.

"Today I put a stake in the ground. Not for this office, not for the title or the job, but I put a stake in the ground for those Arkansans who are sick and tired of these types of political games and the people who play them. It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come. 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. I am doing what is necessary to make things right and I have a peace in sharing the truth with you today. This has been an embarrassing time for my family and me and when history is recorded I want my children to know that I have owned up to mistakes and made them right. Thank you Kim and so many others for encouraging me to share the truth."

DEMOCRATIC RESPONSE
The Democratic Party of Arkansas issued the following statement after Darr’s announcement.

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“Lieutenant Governor Mark Darr’s insistence that he meant no wrong does not erase the fact that he broke 11 ethics violations and illegally spent campaign and taxpayer money. And anyone who has called for him to resign and repair the public’s trust is simply upholding transparency and ethics in our government and standing up for the taxpayers of Arkansas. Calls for a resignation have come from Republicans and Democrats alike because we are Arkansans first who care about our state’s tax dollars.”

“The fact is that Mark Darr can no longer honorably serve as the second-highest ranking official of our state. If a person commits a crime, an excuse of ‘I didn’t know’ wouldn’t pass muster with a judge. Darr has lost the public’s trust entirely and must resign.”

“Asa Hutchinson has refused to call on Mark Darr to resign immediately despite Mark Darr’s own admission of illegally spending campaign and taxpayer dollars. Hutchinson’s reason for not calling on Darr to resign is a DC politician’s excuse. Arkansans are right to expect that their elected officials be held to the highest standards of ethical conduct. It’s troubling that Asa Hutchinson is comfortable allowing Mark Darr to continue serving as Arkansas’s Lt. Governor.”

DARR’S FULL STATEMENT
Kim and I would like to thank many people across the state for their calls, texts and prayers during this difficult time.  We have been encouraged by your willingness to stand up for us and beside us throughout this process.  Probably one of the most valuable lessons we have learned over the past few years is the value of friendship. We have been encouraged in good faith to share with the people of Arkansas the factual truth, instead of continuing to remain silent.
 
I am not downplaying what has occurred, but there is no scandal, no conspiracy and no malicious intentional disregard of the law. If there were, it would apparently involve multiple offices and agencies.  It was an oversight that should have been noticed and corrected long before now and by multiple people including myself.
 
Over the past few months I have been diligently working with various state offices to correct errors that were either directly or indirectly my responsibility, but are no more than unintentional mistakes.  I have walked through the process, worked cooperatively, and taken responsibility, but the facts have not been accurately presented to the public. For the errors I made, I apologize to the people of Arkansas and I will now share the actual facts.
 
First, what has not been stated is that in 2010, I loaned my campaign over $170,000 and had every legal right to raise money and retire that debt.  This is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, I erred in how I reported those payments and fundraising activities, which has been incorrectly interpreted as my using campaign funds for personal use.  When this was brought to my attention, I immediately became pro-active to be transparent and correct those mistakes by requesting that the ethics commission review my previous filings for potential errors, which included filing an ethics complaint on myself.  I want you to know that at the end of the day, the only money that ever came back to me, in whatever form, was a repayment of campaign debt that was legally owed to me. 
 

Second, over the past three years I collected almost $10,000 in travel reimbursements that were incorrect. These were reimbursements for official travel.  The error was using my home as the point of origin instead of the Capitol building.  As Lieutenant Governor I am constitutionally given the same privilege that the Governor has in regards to travel and security.  This means that I could have spent tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayer’s money over the past three years by using the Arkansas State Police to provide transportation and security.  I could have also purchased, like my predecessor, a state vehicle which would cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars.  Instead, I decided to use my personal vehicle and was reimbursed mileage an average of $3,000 per year over the past three years.  This saved the taxpayers of Arkansas countless tax dollars. The Lieutenant Governor’s office is different in the fact that we submit our payment requests to the State Auditor’s office for payment.  The State Auditor’s office would pay the bill or contact us when something appeared to be inaccurate.  No one in my office was ever contacted to make us aware of the policy regarding the Capitol building being the point of origin instead of my home. Furthermore, in a previous annual audit, no findings were issued and the travel reimbursement was not brought to our attention by Legislative Audit. 
 
Third, that I misused state funds by using the state credit card for personal expense.  These were purchases that were either for official state use or used by mistake while traveling.  As soon as the errors were realized, I reimbursed the state for those charges.  For some unknown reason, it appears that the State Auditor’s office failed to deposit one of the checks, for which I have proof of payment.  I will gladly resubmit this check. 
 
These three facts are not worthy of my removal from office and certainly not worthy of personal attacks on my character and on my family. The cost of a special election would be in excess of one million dollars. 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.
 
Today I put a stake in the ground. Not for this office, not for the title or the job, but I put a stake in the ground for those Arkansans who are sick and tired of these types of political games and the people who play them. It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come.  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. I am doing what is necessary to make things right and I have a peace in sharing the truth with you today. This has been an embarrassing time for my family and me and when history is recorded I want my children to know that I have owned up to mistakes and made them right. Thank you Kim and so many others for encouraging me to share the truth.

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Comments

Ignorance

Ignorantia juris non excusat. A maxim old enough to be found in ancient Roman law. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. But here we have someone who ran a business (might want to take a look at those books) and was the 2nd highest elected official in Arkansas and he wants to use that as an excuse for why he committed multiple ethical and legal violations. So we are to conclude that he isn't crooked just incompetent. Notice the classic criminal spin that other people should have caught this years ago. It's always someone else's fault, share the blame, society didn't give me a chance. Except for the fact that we expected him to have basic common sense and that he willfully missed out on campaign finance training classes held multiple times a year. He was given plenty of chances. His excuses ring hollow. Darr, your personal embarrassment is becoming an embarrassment to the entire state. Leave with some dignity intact and disappear.

Ignorantia

Great comment anon and not only applies to Mr. Darr but many other elected officials in our area. The corruption seems to abound in both National Parties and makes one want to sit down and just have a cup of TEA!

No no it doesnt

Sorry to shut down that line of thinking but in answer to your question, no. Most of those folks are oblivious to those holding the strings not to mention oblivious to facts and real macroeconomics. Which is basically more Darr. We don't need to replace a crooked incompetent with just pure incompetence.

Darr

Not even a narcissistic shrill hack like Darr is so full of himself that he can't see the right thing to do. The problem is he's probably so broke he needs the income. Didnt a local bank bring a foreclosure suit against him for being four months behind on his mortgage payments?