The Arkansas Senate voted Tuesday (Sept. 27) to concur with a Senate Ethics Committee discovering that Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, had filed a “spurious, frivolous and retaliatory” ethics petition towards Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff.
Votes had been 26-4 on three separate motions. One affirmed that Clark had filed the unmerited costs. One other moved him to thirty fifth in seniority within the Senate and to suggest to subsequent yr’s 94th Common Meeting that he stay there. The 94th agrees Jan. 9. The third was to droop him till the top of Jan. 8, 2023, from Senate actions aside from organizational and orientation conferences of the 94th Common Meeting, together with having using employees, his Senate license plate, Senate digital gadgets, and his e-mail account.
Clark was on trip and didn’t attend the session – a truth identified by a number of senators.
Voting towards the motions had been Sens. Bob Ballinger, R-Ozark; Charles Beckham, R-McNeil; Trent Garner, R-El Dorado; and Mark Johnson, R-Ferndale. Clark was listed as abstaining. Along with Clark, the opposite senators not current had been Sens. Ronald Caldwell, R-Wynne; James Sturch, R-Batesville; Jason Rapert, R-Conway; and Gary Stubblefield, R-Department.
After two-and-a-half hours of typically contentious debate, Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Beebe, moved the Senate to contemplate that Clark had filed the “spurious, frivolous and retaliatory” petition. The vote got here 11 days after the Senate had voted to recess on the problem in one other session when Clark was current.
Earlier that day, it had voted 29-0 to concur with the Senate Ethics Committee discovering that Flowers had not violated ethics guidelines when she at first was paid $3,000 in per diem bills in the course of the 2021 common session when she had attended conferences remotely. The committee discovered that Flowers had contacted the Senate employees with questions concerning the deposits into her checking account de ella and had been advised she was entitled to the funds. Flowers reimbursed the Senate virtually $3,000 in two funds in August after Clark had begun inquiring about them. He filed the ethics grievance towards her on Aug. 18 – after her first cost of $2,714 and earlier than her second of $217.60.
Clark’s ethics filings towards Flowers got here after the Senate on July 21 authorised the Ethics Committee’s findings that he had violated ethics guidelines when he requested Johnson to signal his identify indicating he had attended a Boys State Committee assembly when he had not carried out so. Signing his identify made him eligible for $155 in per diem bills.
Clark then was stripped of his committee chair and vice chair posts and barred from receiving per diem and mileage reimbursements for the remainder of the yr. He had been chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and held different chair and vice chair posts. Johnson additionally was barred from receiving per diem and mileage reimbursements and was stripped of his vice chair positions.
A lot of the talk centered round what senators known as Clark’s retaliatory actions. On June 22, Clark submitted a Freedom of Info Act request for all supplemental sign-in sheets for the final 10 years. In a narrative printed by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on July 3, he was quoted saying he would turn out to be “a bit of meaner” and in addition mentioned, “In the case of Mark [Johnson], I’ll burn the home down.” On Aug. 9, he made a Fb submit titled “Secrets and techniques to Large Killing” the place he apparently in contrast himself to David within the Bible. Senate President Professional Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, who had filed the ethics grievance towards Clark, had advised the committee that Clark had drafted complaints towards 30-32 different senators.
Garner, Ballinger, and Johnson defended Clark by saying that, with out authorized illustration current, he was not being afforded due course of or given an opportunity to defend himself or current proof. Garner mentioned that Clark had not damaged any legal guidelines. Ballinger, an lawyer, mentioned hearings are routinely postponed, together with as a result of somebody is on trip.
Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, replied that the Senate was engaged in an administrative course of for a penalty listening to, not a courtroom of legislation. He was one among a number of senators who expressed frustration with Clark’s determination to not interrupt his trip from him to be current on the listening to.
“He had the power to be right here, identical to each one among us,” he mentioned. “I acquired off the mix twice to be right here. I acquired one time of the yr to plant a crop, and I acquired one time a yr to get a crop out. I’ve not had a trip in six years, however I am right here.”
Garner argued that the truth that Flowers had repaid the cash confirmed the grievance was not frivolous. He mentioned that $4,000 had been returned to the taxpayers on account of Clark’s actions – Flowers’ $3,000 and one other $1,000 that had been found to be improperly paid to Garner.
Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, the chair of the Ethics Fee, famous that Clark had not filed a grievance towards Garner though Garner was in the same state of affairs. Clark had mentioned he centered on Flowers as a result of her receiving of the cash was extra egregious. However on the time, he didn’t know the way a lot cash Garner had obtained.
In his closing remarks, Hammer mentioned, “The query it’s essential to contemplate in deciding to vote for or towards that is, ‘Have we been used? Has the establishment of the Senate been used? And for what objective and what purpose and to whose benefit, and what trigger is being superior as a result of we have been used?’”
Garner and Ballinger argued that the Senate’s actions would disenfranchise Clark’s 87,000 constituents. Sen. Missy Irvin, a member of the Ethics Committee, disagreed, saying, “He is the one which jeopardized his potential to serve his constituents. That is not on me. He that is not on this physique. These had been decisions that Sen. Clark made when he went down this path.”
Afterward, senators voted to alter the foundations in order that it takes three or extra members to carry an moral cost towards a fellow senator. The movement carried on a voice vote with no audible dissenters. Hickey, who proposed the change, mentioned costs would advance even when one of many three senators withdrew from the submitting. That senator wouldn’t be topic to punishment if the submitting had been discovered to be with out advantage.