The Arkansas Ethics Commission has cleared 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Marcus Vaden of any ethical violations following a citizen’s complaint in late May.
In a second unrelated case, the Commission cautioned Vaden for failing to correctly list certain information on his 2006 and 2008 Statement of Financial Interest forms.
Bee Branch resident and former deputy prosecuting attorney Stephen James filed the ethics complaint, claiming a conflict of interest in the county’s renting of a building that Vaden once held partial ownership of to house the prosecutor’s hot check office.
An investigation was conducted on the issue of whether or not Vaden had violated Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-304(a), which, in part, reads, "No public official or state employee shall use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or (immediate family)."
In 2008, Vaden filed for an exemption from an ethics rule that an employee’s participation in "any matter pertaining to any contract or subcontract for which the employee or a member of his immediate family has a financial interest" can be considered a conflict of interest. Vaden based the exemption, which was requested for 2007 and 2008, on the grounds that there was no other place to house the hot check office and its location was familiar to citizens and merchants.
Vaden left the partnership that owns the building, MVW Partnership LLC, in 2009.
"We felt all along that Mr. James’ complaint was completely baseless and that the Commission would dismiss it," Vaden said.
In June, the Commission advised Vaden that the investigation had been expanded to include the issue of whether or not he violated Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-701(d) by failing to disclose certain required information on his Statements of Financial Interest from 2006-2008.
Vaden left off his interest in the hot check building in his 2006 SFI filing but correctly listed it on his 2005, 2007 and 2008 forms. Vaden also failed to disclose his wife’s source of income in the 2006 filing and checked an incorrect box when listing the amount of her income on his 2008 SFI form.
In a 3-1 vote, the Commission found that probable cause existed in Vaden’s violation of Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-701(d) and issued a Public Letter of Caution to Vaden.
According to a letter from the Commission, the caution is "advisory in nature and serves to give clear notice that such actions violated the law." A caution is the lowest level of action the Commission can take.
In reaction to the Commission’s caution, Vaden said he would exercise more care in filling out the forms and checking the correct boxes.
(Staff writer Stephanie Fischer can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1238. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)