UPDATE: Republican Arkansas State Senators Mark Johnson and Alan Clark arrested in fraudulent per diem scheme

After three days of testimony and closed-door deliberations, the state Senate ethics committee determined on Monday that the senator. Mark Johnson (R-Ferndale) and Senator. Alain Clark (R-Lonsdale) violated Senate rules when Johnson signed Clark for a State of the Boys event on June 3 that he did not actually attend so Clark could collect a daily fee of $159, plus the mileage.

Johnson was there at the Capitol Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. to hear the committee’s decision, but Clark was not. Committee members all voted to recommend the same sentences for Johnson and Clark. These penalties include:

  • A letter of reprimand from the Senate
  • Revocation of any chair or vice-chair for the remainder of the 93rd General Assembly
  • Ineligibility for per diems or mileage reimbursements for the remainder of the 93rd General Assembly
  • Ineligibility to serve again on the Boys’ State, Girls’ State, or Senate Ethics Committee
Brian Chilson
State Sen. Mark Johnson (R-Ferndale) should be penalized by his peers for signing with fellow Sen. Alan Clark at a boys’ state meeting so Clark could collect per diems and mileage expenses .

The Senate Ethics Committee will prepare a report on the hearing and its recommendations for the entire Senate within 20 days, and the entire Senate will vote on all actions before they become official. This is an unusual situation, and it is unclear whether the Senate will agree to these exact sanctions, propose its own, or go in a completely different direction. Senate rules allow for alternate recommendations.

Acting President of the Senate Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) filed the ethics complaints against Clark and Johnson on June 15, and the Senate Ethics Committee was required under its rules to meet and consider the complaints within 10 days. .

Members of the Senate committee who met on Wednesday, Thursday and Monday include the chairman of Republicans Kim Hammer of Benton, David Wallace of Leachville, Dan Sullivan of Jonesboro, missy irvin of Mountain View and Matt Pitsch of Fort Smith and the Democrats Clarke Tucker of Little Rock and Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff. Democrat Joyce Elliot is also a member of the committee but did not attend the three days of meetings or vote on the recommendations. Wallace was not originally on the committee, but replaced Johnson since it was Johnson who was charged with the wrongdoing and therefore could not fill the role of deliberative member of the committee.

Brian Chilson
Senator Alan Clark (middle) was not present on Monday when members of the ethics committee recommended his sanctions. He is pictured here with Senator Mark Johnson on the left and Senator Jimmy Hickey, who filed the ethics complaint against him.

Flowers offered replacement motions for Johnson and Clark to add that they be stripped of their Senate seniority. Both times his motion died for lack of a second.

If the full Senate accepts the committee’s recommendations, Johnson and Clark will be virtually non-entities for the remainder of this session, which will continue until new members of the 94th General Assembly are sworn in in January 2023. While the regular session of the 93rd General Assembly has ended, a number of committees still meet regularly on Capitol Hill, and Governor Hutchinson signaled its intention to convene a special session to consider tax breaks and an increase in teachers’ salaries.

Clark is chairman of the Senate Child Abuse Investigations Oversight Committee and Judiciary Committee, vice chairman of the Arkansas Legislative Council Examination, and co-chair of the Legislative Council Professional Licensing Examination Subcommittee. from Arkansas. He would lose those leadership positions.

Johnson serves as Vice Chairman of the Joint Budget Committee-Claims, Charitable, Penal and Correctional Institutions of the Arkansas Legislative Council and the Joint Energy Committee. He would lose those leadership positions.

Clark uses a Lonsdale PO Box as his public address, and Lonsdale is about 40 miles from the Capitol. Lawmakers who live within 50 miles of the Capitol receive a reimbursement of $55 per day, plus mileage. But Clark’s voter registration lists his residence as a Hot Springs address about 52 miles from the Capitol. Clark is claiming the daily rate of $159.

Of course, defrauding taxpayers by claiming refunds to which you are not entitled seems to be a violation not only of Senate rules, but of the law.

Another consideration: A few candidates were forced out of the races or ruled ineligible to take office in Arkansas this year because a judge ruled old hot-checking charges counted as disqualifying “infamous crimes.” The accusations against Clark and Johnson seem just as serious, if not more so.

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