LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr told investigators that "carelessness" on his part led to the ethics and campaign finance violations that ultimately led to his planned resignation, the state Ethics Commission said in a report released Thursday.
The panel released hundreds of pages of documents related to the probe into Darr’s campaign and office spending, a month after he agreed to an $11,000 fine for multiple ethics and campaign finance violations. Darr, a Republican who was elected in 2010, earlier this month announced he would step down on Feb. 1 because of the violations.
According to the report, Darr told ethics staff in November that he expected to be fined over the violations, which he insisted were "mistakes of carelessness."
"I never intended to take money that I was not entitled to, but I failed to follow proper accounting procedures," Darr said in a statement he provided to investigators.
Darr agreed in December to the fines imposed by the state Ethics Commission for 11 separate violations, which included using his campaign funds for personal items and improper travel reimbursements from the state. Darr was not available for comment, his office said Thursday.
The report detailed more than $31,000 in campaign funds that Darr used on food, fuel and other personal items since taking office in 2011. Darr had loaned his campaign more than $170,000 in 2010, but the ethics commission said that spending the funds on personal items was not a legal way to retire that debt. The figure also includes more than $5,700 Darr spent after he retired the debt his campaign owed him.
"In essence, Mr. Darr spent $31,572.74 in campaign funds as they were his own," Todd Elder, an attorney for the commission, wrote in the report.
Darr also told investigators that he didn’t read his campaign finance reports before signing them.
"He thanked us and apologized to the commission because he obviously made mistakes and it was just ‘carelessness’ on his part," Elder wrote. "He had no malicious intent and wants to get it corrected even though it may sting to get it corrected."
Darr had filed a complaint against himself after questions were first raised about his campaign finance reports. Matt Campbell, a lawyer and blogger who had first raised questions about the personal expenses, also filed a complaint against the lieutenant governor.
The report also detailed thousands that ethics investigators said Darr improperly spent using a state-issued credit card on personal expenses, and improper travel reimbursements from the state. A separate legislative audit last year had cited Darr for similar issues on the reimbursements.
Darr initially refused to step down over the ethics violations, but announced his resignation Jan. 10 after facing impeachment threats from lawmakers of both parties. Gov. Mike Beebe on Wednesday said he hasn’t yet received a formal resignation letter from the lieutenant governor.
The report said Darr could have avoided the ethics woes that led to his downfall if he had sought the commission’s help on filing his reports.
"If Mr. Darr sought staff’s advice, he could have avoided many instances of making personal use of campaign funds and record keeping and reporting issues," Elder wrote.