Arkansas GOP Worries About Impact of Darr Impeachment

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 7:46 am  

LITTLE ROCK — With pressure mounting for Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to resign or be removed from office over ethics violations, fellow Republicans are wrestling with the political consequences of a prolonged impeachment fight during an election year.

The top Republican in the House said Darr's impeachment over the violations tied to his office and campaign spending was inevitable. On Thursday, several GOP lawmakers said they were still holding out hope that the lieutenant governor would reconsider his plans to stay in office.

"I don't see why he would want to go forward," said Rep. Ann Clemmer, R-Benton, who said she would resign if she were in Darr's position. "I don't think he's going to have the outcome he wants."

Clemmer, who is seeking a central Arkansas congressional seat, and other GOP lawmakers said they believe questions surrounding Darr's future threaten to distract the Legislature as it nears the Feb. 10 start of this year's session focusing primarily on the budget. A committee is expected to begin researching impeachment options for Darr, who acknowledged to the Ethics Commission last week that he had broken ethics and campaign laws 11 times since 2010 and agreed to pay $11,000 in fines.

"I think it's putting everyone in a really uncomfortable position," said Rep. Prissy Hickerson, R-Texarkana, who stopped short of calling on Darr to resign.

Darr has refused to step down, saying in a series of interviews Tuesday and Wednesday that the violations were unintentional and not worthy of his ouster. A spokeswoman for Darr did not immediately return a call Thursday afternoon.

Rep. Kelley Linck, R-Yellville, said he would probably resign if he were Darr but said he wasn't sure whether impeachment was warranted. Linck said the ethics case affects a key part of Darr's job as lieutenant governor — being prepared to act as governor if necessary.

"If I were in his shoes and didn't feel like I had the trust of the people of Arkansas, it would be awkward to be put in that position of governing without the trust," Linck said.

The Ethics Commission last week said it found probable cause that Darr made personal use of $31,572.74 in campaign funds, received excess contributions to retire his campaign debt, didn't maintain adequate records, failed to itemize loan repayments and accepted improper reimbursement for travel expenses.

A separate legislative audit last month cited more than $12,000 in improper expenses incurred by Darr's office.

Darr signed a letter Dec. 30 in which he accepted the commission's findings.

House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said Tuesday that Darr's impeachment was inevitable if he didn't resign. House Speaker Davy Carter is expected to name a committee soon to begin researching impeachment options and procedures.



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