FAYETTEVILLE (AP) — Arkansas State Police officials are reviewing the agency’s practice of providing security to the University of Arkansas football team after a trooper who coordinated security for ex-coach Bobby Petrino accepted about $3,111 worth of items from the program over the past year.
Capt. Lance King didn’t violate state police policy, but officials will ask state agencies whether he erred in taking the items, state police spokesman Bill Sadler told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for Saturday’s editions.
Gifts are tax-exempt, but gratuities are not, officials said. Public servants, which the Arkansas Ethics Commissions defines as "all public officials, public employees and public appointees," are generally prohibited from receiving gifts.
On Friday, Sadler reported the findings of an audit of items received by King and two other state troopers who provided on-field security for the Razorbacks and Petrino. The audit stemmed from a review of King’s actions after the April 1 motorcycle crash that led to Petrino’s dismissal.
Athletic Director Jeff Long fired Petrino on April 10, saying the coach had created a conflict of interest when he hired Jessica Dorrell as a football program coordinator without disclosing their extramarital affair. The relationship was exposed after a state police accident report identified Dorrell as Petrino’s passenger during the crash.
King transported Petrino to a Fayetteville hospital after motorists drove him away from the crash site. King had to provide a detailed account of his dealings with Petrino after the accident.
State police commanders reviewed the items King received and concluded that he hadn’t violated state law or department policy by accepting them, Sadler said. Neither agency Director Col. J.R. Howard nor King’s supervisors believe the captain’s decision-making ability was affected by accepting the gifts, he said.
"There’s no evidence, no hint of anything that (King) may have done that compromised his integrity," Sadler said.
However, Sadler said other state agencies may have different policies that apply to King.
All three troopers received Razorback apparel that the university requested they wear while providing security on non-game days. The apparel included a warm-up suit, hat and polo shirt, which the university assigned a combined value of $139 for each trooper.
King also received gifts for coordinating the security, Sadler said, including tickets for home and bowl games, which had a combined face value of $2,575, according to documents.
State law bars public servants from receiving gifts or other income for performing their duties, said Graham Sloan, executive director for the Arkansas Ethics Commission.
Sloan said he couldn’t offer an opinion on the facts of King’s case, but he said if a state legislator called seeking advice on accepting a gift of $200 worth of tickets, he would advise them not to take them.
"Our advice is conservative," Sloan said. "If there is a line, it’s to keep them well back from the line, but I’m just not the one to determine if there has been a violation or not."
Food, lodging and travel expenses incurred while performing a duty would be exempt as a gift, but there is no exemption for clothing, Sloan said.
The Arkansas State Police has provided security for the Razorbacks under Arkansas Code 12-8-109, titled "Police protection for statewide functions," Sadler said. A trooper has been traveling with the team for at least 10 years, and state police have provided game-day security since the 1960s, he said.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com