Com­mis­sion is­sues warn­ing to long­time JP

The Saline Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Dana Guthrie [email protected]­ton­courier.com

The Arkansas Ethics Com­mis­sion has is­sued a Pub­lic Let­ter Of Cau­tion to a Sa­line County Jus­tice of the Peace af­ter a com­plaint was filed re­gard­ing il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions.

“This has al­ready been taken care of,” said JP Bar­bara Howell. “I al­ready paid the money back a long time back.”

Ac­cord­ing to a let­ter sent to Howell by the Com­mis­sion, a com­plaint was filed against her for actions taken dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion cy­cle in which Howell ac­cepted a con­tri­bu­tion to her cam­paign from the Lake Nor­rell Area As­so­ci­a­tion. The let­ter also stated that the LNAA is not a per­mis­si­ble con­trib­u­tor.

“I’ve al­ready ad­mit­ted to it and they al­ready sent me a let­ter of warn­ing and that’s it,” Howell said. “It’s done.”

Al­le­ga­tions against Howell were first brought up in an April meet­ing of mem­bers of the LNAA and a group call­ing it­self “Con­cerned Cit­i­zens of Lake Nor­rell,” led by

res­i­dents Wil­liam Grig­son and Dar­rell Brown. The CCLN was formed to ad­dress con­cerns about the LNAA board and al­le­ga­tions that the board was guilty of ar­ro­gance of power, in­ten­tional avoid­ance of trans­parency and in­ap­pro­pri­ate pay­ments.

Although Grig­son brought up pos­si­ble il­le­gal cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions

in 2015 from the LNAA to Howell’s cam­paign dur­ing the April meet­ing, the con­tri­bu­tion was deemed to be given in er­ror and as of the day be­fore the meet­ing, Howell had re­turned the $350.

A change in state law pre­vents as­so­ci­a­tions such as the LNAA from mak­ing con­tri­bu­tions, but that was ap­par­ently un­known at the time the con­tri­bu­tion was made.

“I didn’t know the law had changed,” Howell said in an

in­ter­view with The Sa­line Courier in April. “I called the Ethics Com­mis­sion and talked to Gra­ham Sloan, the head of the Ethics Com­mis­sion … he said, ‘just go and re­im­burse it and that’s fine.’ So I did.“

No ac­tion is be­ing taken against Howell other than the Com­mis­sion is­su­ing a Pub­lic Let­ter of Cau­tion on Aug. 13.

“Pur­suant to the terms of the Con­sent Or­der which you signed, it was agreed that the Com­mis­sion make

a find­ing that you vi­o­lated Ark. Code Ann. 7-6-203(a) (1) by ac­cept­ing a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion from Lake Nor­rell Area As­so­ci­a­tion,” the let­ter said. “As part of its dis­po­si­tion of this mat­ter, the Com­mis­sion is hereby is­su­ing you this Pub­lic Let­ter of Cau­tion which is ad­vi­sory in na­ture and serves to give clear no­tice that by ac­cept­ing the con­tri­bu­tion in ques­tion you vi­o­lated the law. You are ad­vised not to en­gage in the same ac­tiv­ity again.”

Howell

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