Darr Says He Won’t Resign From Lieutenant Governor’s Office

Lt. Gov. Mark Darr says he is not resigning from office.

Darr conducted one-on-one interviews with members of the media, including 5NEWS, from his office at the Capitol in Little Rock on Tuesday  (Jan. 7) to discuss his political future in the face of an ethics fine imposed late last year.

Darr said he made unintentional mistakes in reporting campaign expenditures, in collecting travel reimbursements and in using the state credit card.

Those issues are “not worthy of my removal from office,” he said in a prepared statement.

“Today I put a stake in the ground,” Darr said in the statement. “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.”

As seen in this picture from Little Rock by 5NEWS reporter Aubry Killion, Darr was accompanied by his wife, Kim, in the interview sessions.

Arkansas’ Republican congressional delegation, Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe and other elected officials and candidates had called for Darr to resign over the ethics issues.

On Dec. 31, Beebe phoned Darr and asked him to quit, but Darr declined the request, stating he would stay in office, according to Beebe’s spokesman Matt DeCample.

The Democratic governor’s request for the Republican second-in-command to step down came one day after Darr agreed to pay $11,000 in fines. The state Ethics Commission found probable cause Darr had violated 11 state campaign and ethics laws dating back to 2010.

In the wake of the ethics ruling, Darr admitted he erred on campaign finance filings, signed a letter from the Ethics Commission that admitted guilt, and agreed to pay the fines.

After the call from the governor, though, Amber Pool, a spokeswoman for Darr, said the lieutenant governor had no intention of stepping down.

Beebe’s resignation call only holds symbolic weight. The popular governor has no authority to force Darr out because both are independent constitutional officers for the state of Arkansas. According to DeCample, only the state Legislature, which meets again next month for a fiscal session, can force Darr to resign.

After the call with Beebe, Darr attempted to move past the call for his resignation in a prepared statement.

“The mistakes I made have been well documented,” he said. “My focus now is on making things right with the people of Arkansas.”

Darr was elected lieutenant governor in 2010, defeating Democrat state Sen. Shane Broadway. Darr has not indicated whether he will seek re-election in 2014.

In August, Darr declared his intention to run for the open U.S. House seat in Arkansas’s 4th Congressional District that’s currently held by Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, who’s decided to challenge Democrat Mark Pryor for his U.S. Senate seat.

Shortly after his announcement, however, left-leaning Arkansas blogger Matt Campbell began to report improper spending by Darr’s 2010 campaign. Because of these questions over campaign finances, Darr called off his congressional campaign less than a month after declaring.

Republican state Reps. Charlie Collins and Andy Mayberry are running in the lieutenant governor’s race in the 2014 election, as is Democrat John Burkhalter.

Now that he has declined to resign, the state House is expected to attempt to impeach him during the fiscal session beginning next month, said state Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville. If the House votes to impeach Darr, the Senate could vote to force Darr from office, Leding said.

If Darr is removed from office, the governor then could call for a special election to fill the vacancy.

Below is the full statement issued by Darr on Tuesday:

LITTLE ROCK – 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.

Mark A. Darr

12 comments

  • Sarah 1

    Mr. DARR says ‘“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.’
    Well, I say it was Mr. DARR who was playing political games with taxpayer monies. Mr. DARR you VIOLIATED ethics. You.

    • Traveler

      All politicians are in it for the money and the power….don’t let any of them fool you into thinking they are not.

      • arnold fudpucker

        Ain’t that the truth! Never saw a poor politician particularly after being in office for an extended period of time. Makes you really appreciate the fact that the people of Arkansas were smart enough to put term limits in place.

        Now if we can just get the federal level politicos on term limits we might start seeing some improvement in gubbamint.

  • R71

    How is it that this article posted on Tuesday, January 7th, but the first sentence indicates the interview took place on Wednesday January the 8th? Does 5News have a time machine?

    What were some of the 11 violations in particular?

    Why, out of left field in the middle of the article, are we advised that Governor Beebe is term limited? What does that have to do with Darr?

  • JR Gibbs

    I actually understand his explanation and except it. He is not dodging. He is telling all what happened. Something should be said about honesty. These calls to resign have nothing to do with what is good for the people of Arkansas. It is what is good for the politicians. This is a power play. Nothing more. LG Darr will be done this year anyway. His position is symbolic for the most part. Are we to let the governor appoint? Or have a special election that would cost taxpayers a million dollars? All politicians should be required to attend ethics and campaign finance training. Then they will know the rules. But, that won’t happen. That is considered real work. Just my take. If he were a democrat my take would be the same. I am un bias.

    • Sarah 1

      Mr. Gibbs you say ‘Something should be said about honesty’.
      How true you speak. The problem is in Mr. DARRS dishonesty.
      He violated the ethics of his position as Lt. Governor.

      • JR Gibbs

        My point is, he has not lied nor tried to cover this up. He has been forth coming. The ethics commission did say he did not attend offered training. I find his explanation understandable. Is it right? No. But, I have seen most Politian’s lie even after being caught. He never did that. For that I respect him as I would any man. The auditor should have said something. The ethics commission should require all politicians to attend training. But that I suppose would require the legislator or senate to make a rule and demand that and like I said, these folks are not going to make themselves go to a class like that. They are all far above ethics. The LtG was wrong. He has dropped out of any races, He is done in politics. I don’t see spending a million $ for an election for such an office. This is just politics as usual on the democratic side. But the republicans would do the same it they could smell blood in the water. I just think it is a shame because I don’t trust any of them for the most part. I can say, no one is asking for him to resign to help Arkansas. They are doing it to promote their party and see an opportunity. I am not defending his actions. I am defending his response.

  • The Mom

    First of all, I would like to note that THE STATE AUDITOR didn’t catch it. Using your home as a point of origin seems quite normal to me… Since that is where you travel from!
    Secondly, there was no theft. Mis-reporting. Poor paperwork skills. Yes. Maybe he needs a better secretary!
    He was willing to admit AND correct his mistakes.

    Given that there was NO THEFT, and that the mistakes he made have been corrected, and he agreed to pay the fines, I see no reason to spend $1,000,000 of taxpayer money for a special election! It’s rediculous. Especially since his term is practically 3/4 over.

    If he had fought the corrections, or argued over the fines I could see justification.

    Bottom line, everyone makes mistakes. Even politicians!

    Tell me that you have never made a paperwork or accounting error. Especially when you had a business to run, a political office, and a family!

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