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Arkansas senators debate ethics complaint for 2nd day, decision expected Friday

By: - September 8, 2022 5:31 pm

The Arkansas Senate Ethics Committee on Thursday again failed to reach a decision after its second hours-long, closed-door meeting on a complaint state Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, filed in August against another senator.

The committee met for almost 10 hours on Sept. 1 to discuss the complaint in executive session before agreeing to table the discussion. Thursday’s meeting lasted almost five hours.

Committee Chairman Sen. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, told reporters after the meeting that he expects a “final determination” after Friday’s meeting, which he said he does not believe will last as long as Thursday’s.

“We have just really made sure that we’re deliberating and getting answers to all the questions the committee members have,” he said. “Given the seriousness of the charge, we want to make sure we’re giving plenty of time to be thorough in our decision.”

Under Senate rules, the Ethics Committee can consider complaints in executive session, limiting participation to the committee members and those involved in the complaints.

Rumors in State Capitol circles indicate Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, is the target of Clark’s complaint, though the complaint itself is not public information.

Flowers is usually a member of the ethics committee but was replaced for the proceedings on Clark’s complaint by Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram, D-West Memphis.

Senate rules allow for a party’s top senator to replace a member of their party on the committee if that member is making the complaint or is the subject of the complaint.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Aug. 26 that Flowers reimbursed the Senate earlier that month for nearly $3,000 in improper per diem and travel payments. Clark was disciplined in July over a per diem issue.

Flowers and Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, were incorrectly paid for meetings they attended via videoconference. Garner also agreed to reimburse the Senate for the payments. 

Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana, told the Democrat-Gazette he considered the payments to Flowers and Garner “clerical” errors.

The ethics committee has asked Clark and the target of his complaint to attend tomorrow’s meeting, Hammer said.

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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri's journalism school in 2019.

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