Alan Clark and Mark Johnson found guilty of violating senate ethics rules

Last week the Senate body found Alan Clark and Mark Johnson violated senate ethics laws and adopted ethics committee recommendations to strip the senators of their chairmanships. Moreover, the body voted the senators may not receive per diem or mileage reimbursements for the remainder of the year. 

The Clark and Johnson ethics debacle is now a wrap, but it hasn’t been without drama. First, the Senate Ethics Committee held all of their sessions behind closed doors in executive session. Chair Kim Hammer has broad discretion to do so, but from the start, it was a bad look on a body that was taking up attempted theft of taxpayer dollars. Second, the Senate meeting as a whole was not live streamed. The public could attend—which we did—but it’s kinda strange that an ethical issue as big as this was not conducted with transparency. 

Third, there were striking revelations during the meeting, like Sen Johnson grabbing the sign-in sheet from a BLR staffer after the staffer questioned the signing-in of an absent senator. And when Sen Jason Rapert monologued on why the issue was even an issue, since senators often sign in but not attend meetings… should senators be making light of abuse of power? 

It gets worse. Four: despite his best attempt of contrition, Sen Clark rolled into the Republican State Convention donning a scarlet “E” around his neck—a reference to the Scarlet Letter. About that making-light-of-abuse-of-power thing: Sen Clark thinks it’s funny that he was held accountable for attempted theft of public funds. Gross.

The Dem Gaz has a summary of the findings here. Interestingly, Senators Bob Ballinger and Charles Beckham were the only two senators to vote against adopting ethics committee punishments. Senators Flippo, Garner, Stubblefield, Branch, and Teague were absent. Sen Sample moved to refer the findings to the county prosecutor’s office, but a motion to adjourn superseded the referral.  

We hope the senate can clean up its act, but we aren’t holding our breath. On Thursday, just before he was reprimanded by his colleagues, Senator Mark Johnson recused himself from an ALC vote when he admitted his wife fundraises for a grant recipient on which the committee was taking a vote. A couple of days later, the Dem Gaz reported the grant recipient—the Arkansas National Guard Foundation—had severed ties with Johnson’s wife due to insufficient funds. Interesting timing.

The Senate ethics committee may need to prepare for another round of meetings regarding Johnson and his wife’s fundraising contracts. (Have a tip? Drop us a line).