Mark Darr to Resign; Says He'll Leave Office Feb. 1

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 10:40 pm  

Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr

The lieutenant governor's job is a mostly ceremonial position whose duties include presiding over the state Senate and casting the rare tie-breaking vote in the 35-member chamber. He's paid nearly $42,000 a year.

Darr tangled with Beebe last year when Darr signed into law a bill that kept secret the list of residents with concealed weapons permits. Beebe had left the state, which enabled Darr to act.

Beebe had planned to let the bill become law without his signature, but Darr said his passion for the Second Amendment prompted him to sign it.

"I always thought we had a pretty decent relationship," Beebe said at the time. "Obviously, I'll be much more careful. You can't turn your back now."

It was unclear whether a special election would be held to fill Darr's vacancy. A spokesman for Beebe said the governor was researching his options and obligations. State law says an election must be held within 150 days of a vacancy being declared.

Darr on Tuesday had cited the cost of a special election as a reason for staying. Westerman said lawmakers are considering changing the law during next month's legislative session to avoid having a special election.

The Ethics Commission found that Darr violated portions of the Arkansas code 11 times. The panel said it determined that he had made personal use of $31,572.74 of his 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.

Darr's ethics case is similar to one earlier this year involving former Democratic state Sen. Paul Bookout. In that case, Bookout resigned without public pressure from Beebe.

Darr's refusal to leave office had undermined Republican efforts to tie Democrats to recent scandals, including Bookout and former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner's resignation over charges she accepted $36,000 from a broker who did business with the state. Shoffner, who faces trial in March, acknowledged taking the money and quit her post but said the money didn't influence her decision to steer state investments to the broker.

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