Se­na­tor hands in no­tice

Fac­ing fraud sen­tence, Files cites pride in his law­mak­ing work.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE

State Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, on Tues­day sub­mit­ted his res­ig­na­tion, ef­fec­tive Feb. 9.

Files ten­dered his res­ig­na­tion from his Se­nate District 8 seat a day af­ter he pleaded guilty in fed­eral court to felony charges of wire fraud, money laun­der­ing and bank fraud for pock­et­ing state money he ob­tained for a Fort Smith soft­ball com­plex and for pledg­ing a fork­lift he didn’t own as a col­lat­eral on a bank loan.

“It has been a priv­i­lege to rep­re­sent Se­nate District 8 in the Arkansas Se­nate and to serve the ci­ti­zens of Arkansas in the Arkansas Gen­eral As­sem­bly,” Files wrote in a one-para­graph let­ter to Gov. Asa Hutchin­son. The gov­er­nor’s spokesman, J.R. Davis, said the let­ter was re­ceived late Tues­day af­ter­noon.

“I am proud of the work we have done to­gether dur­ing my ten­ure,” Files said in his let­ter to the gov­er­nor, who has served as the state’s chief ex­ec­u­tive since 2015.

He wrote that with his last day be­ing Feb. 9, “this will en­sure time to tie up any loose ends. Thank you for your ser­vice to our great state.”

The Gen­eral As­sem­bly’s fis­cal ses­sion be­gins Feb. 12, and Files’ de­par­ture will leave the Se­nate with 32 mem­bers and three va­can­cies.

Files, 45, has served in the Se­nate since 2011 and chaired the Se­nate Rev­enue and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee. He was in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from 1999-2003. He also has been in the con­struc­tion busi­ness.

Un­der Files’ plea agree­ment with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, he could be sen­tenced to up to 20 years in pri­son, or­dered to pay a fine up to $250,000, or both, for wire fraud.

For money laun­der­ing, Files may be sen­tenced for up to 10 years in pri­son, fined up to $250,000, or both, “or the court may im­pose an al­ter­nate fine of not more than twice the amount of the crim­i­nally de­rived prop­erty in­volved in the trans­ac­tion,” ac­cord­ing to the plea agree­ment. The al­ter­na­tive fine would be up to twice the amount of a cashier’s check for $11,931.91.

For bank fraud, Files faces a max­i­mum pri­son sen­tence of 30 years, a max­i­mum fine of $1 mil­lion or both. No sen­tenc­ing date was set Mon­day.

Ar­ti­cle 5, Sec­tion 9, of the

Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion bars Files from con­tin­u­ing to serve in the Se­nate be­cause un­der that part of the con­sti­tu­tion, no one con­victed of em­bez­zle­ment of pub­lic money, bribery, forgery or other in­fa­mous crime, in­clud­ing a felony of­fense, is el­i­gi­ble to serve in the Gen­eral As­sem­bly.

Hutchin­son has set spe­cial pri­mary elec­tions on Feb. 13 and spe­cial elec­tions on May 22 to fill the va­can­cies in Se­nate District 16 and District 29. The District 16 seat be­came va­cant with the death of Greg Stan­dridge, R-Rus­sel­lville, in Novem­ber af­ter his bat­tle with can­cer. The District 29 seat be­came empty with the Novem­ber res­ig­na­tion of Eddie Joe Wil­liams, R-Cabot, to be Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the South­ern States En­ergy Board.

Spe­cial pri­mary elec­tions and spe­cial elec­tions also will be held on the same days to fill the House District 83 va­cancy cre­ated when Rep. David Bran­scum, R-Mar­shall, re­signed to be­come the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s ru­ral de­vel­op­ment director in Arkansas. The House has 99 rep­re­sen­ta­tives and one va­cant seat with the fis­cal ses­sion set to be­gin in less than two weeks.

The gov­er­nor is re­quired un­der state law to call a spe­cial elec­tion to fill the re­main­der of Files’ term, which was to end in Jan­uary 2019.

Asked when the gov­er­nor ex­pects to set the spe­cial elec­tion, Davis said, “The first step will be to no­tify the [Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can] par­ties of the res­ig­na­tion and re­quest that they no­tify us whether they wish to hold a pri­mary or con­ven­tion to se­lect their can­di­date.

“The gov­er­nor will set the dates af­ter we re­ceive no­tice from the par­ties,” Davis said.

The law re­quires a spe­cial elec­tion to be held as soon as pos­si­ble af­ter a va­cancy oc­curs, and within 150 days af­ter oc­cur­rence of the va­cancy, un­less the gov­er­nor de­ter­mines the time frames won’t work. In that case, the spe­cial elec­tion will be held as soon as prac­ti­ca­ble af­ter the 150 days af­ter the oc­cur­rence of the va­cancy.

In May 2017, hours be­fore Files said he wouldn’t seek re-elec­tion, state Rep. Mat Pitsch, R-Fort Smith, an­nounced his bid for the Se­nate seat in this year’s elec­tion.

But Pitsch will be pro­hib­ited from run­ning in the spe­cial elec­tion for District 8 by Ar­ti­cle 5, Sec­tion 10, of the Arkansas Con­sti­tu­tion. Un­der that pro­vi­sion, no se­na­tor or rep­re­sen­ta­tive shall, dur­ing the term for which he was elected, be ap­pointed or elected to any civil of­fice. Pitsch will be el­i­gi­ble to run in the reg­u­lar pri­mary and gen­eral elec­tions for a full four-year term in District 8.

Asked about not be­ing able to run in the spe­cial elec­tion, Pitsch said, “It is part of the process. I’m up for the pri­mary and gen­eral [elec­tion]. That’s my fo­cus,” he said. He said he looks for­ward to work­ing with who­ever

wins the spe­cial elec­tion.

Some Fort Smith Repub­li­cans’ names were cir­cu­lated at the state Capi­tol as po­ten­tial can­di­dates for the spe­cial elec­tion.

They in­cluded at­tor­ney Joey McCutchen of Fort Smith, who said Tues­day that he’s think­ing about run­ning in the spe­cial elec­tion. He said he doesn’t know whether he’ll run in the reg­u­lar elec­tion.

For­mer state Rep. Frank Glidewell, R-Fort Smith, said he’s con­sid­er­ing run­ning as a Repub­li­can or an in­de­pen­dent in the spe­cial elec­tion.

In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was con­trib­uted by Dave Hughes of the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

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