Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK — Two newly elected state legislators whose jobs involve dealing with housing grants can keep their jobs but will have to report any potential conflicts of interest that come up while they are in public office, the state Ethics Commission said Friday.

The commission also dismissed ethics complaints against the president of the University of Central Arkansas and officials in Pope and Marion counties.

The commission issued advisory opinions Friday at the request of Mac Dodson, president of the Arkansas Development Finance Authority, who had asked about possible conflicts involving newly elected state Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, and state Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock.

Files owns FFH Construction, which has benefited from low-income housing grants administered by ADFA. Love is the grants administrator for Pulaski County Community Services, which uses ADFA grant money.

The commission said Files’ participation in ADFA’s competitive housing programs pre-dated his election to office, so his continued involvement with grants already awarded would not create a prohibited conflict of interest.

The commission also said Love does not have any ownership in the projects for which ADFA grant money has been used, so his continued participation in the agency’s competitive housing programs would not create a conflict of interest.

However, if FFH seeks to extend or renew a grant, or if either legislator is required to take action as a legislator that could affect his finances, he may need to file a statement of financial disclosure and a statement of potential conflict of interest, the commission said in its advisory opinions.

Also Friday, the commission dismissed a complaint alleging that University of Central Arkansas President Allen Meadors used his position to obtain a special privilege when he sent UCA police to escort his wife and parents to an event on campus.

Graham Sloan, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said an investigation found that Meadors’ family members live in residences on the UCA campus, and it was common practice at the university before Meadors became president to provide transportation for guests from one point on the campus to another.

The commission also dismissed complaints alleging that Pope County Assessor Karen Martin and Pope County Collector Rita Chandler used government-owned computers during working hours to post to Facebook pages promoting their re-election.

An investigation revealed that the posting was done by non-government employees on non-government-owned computers, Sloan said.

Also dismissed Friday was a complaint that included several allegations against Marion County Judge James "Pete" Giles, including claims that he improperly hired family members and used county property for personal purposes during a cleanup following an ice storm.

"There just wasn’t any evidence that any of it was true," Sloan said.