Update: Mark Darr Appears Before Ethics Commission

by Chuck Bartels, The Associated Press  on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 3:53 pm  

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr

LITTLE ROCK - Lt. Gov. Mark Darr went before the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Wednesday to face allegations from the group that he improperly spent about $44,000 from his campaign and office accounts.

Darr spent a half-hour behind closed doors with the commission and Matt Campbell, whose Blue Hog blog first leveled accusations about Darr's spending.

Commission members and staff are barred from revealing details of ethics complaints until the panel takes final action. The five-member commission, which enforces standards of conduct for public officials and lobbyists, didn't publicly vote Wednesday on anything pertaining to Darr, and it could be a couple of months before it does so.

Campbell, who was allowed in the closed meeting because he filed complaints against Darr, said the commission reviewed a report that included $31,500 in personal use of campaign funds, about $3,500 in improper use of a state credit card and about $3,500 in improper travel reimbursements.

Campbell said Darr apologized for his actions and said he intends make restitution. Darr's attorney confirmed Campbell's account of the meeting and report.

Darr, a Republican, had been running this year for the 4th District congressional seat but dropped out after allegations about his spending arose. He said Wednesday he hadn't decided whether to run for re-election.

Last week, a separate state legislative audit detailed $12,000 in improper travel expenses and reimbursements, which Darr also pledged to repay.

It was unclear how much, if any, overlap there is between the expenses identified by the commission and by legislative auditors.

The report also noted $6,000 in excess campaign contributions, Campbell said. Three people donated $2,000 each to Darr's campaign and then each gave $2,000 to help him retire his campaign debt, which is against campaign contribution rules.

"It started just with some looking into possible misuse of a state credit card. I started cross-referencing that with the campaign contribution reports and just noticed a whole lot of discrepancies and a whole lot of expenditures that didn't look legit," Campbell said of his initial complaint against Darr.

Darr's attorney, Dan Greenberg, who was with his client at the meeting, said Darr's problems are mainly a matter of keeping sloppy books.

"What he has said is that he was a bad record-keeper, but he didn't take money that wasn't his," Greenberg said in a phone interview after the meeting. "He (Darr) borrowed a bunch of money to run; then he raised a bunch of money; then he used that money that was owed to him for personal expenses."



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