Clerk’s use of county vehicle to attend fundraiser is possible ethics violation

Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson’s use of her county-issued vehicle to attend a fundraiser held on her behalf Tuesday could be a violation of Arkansas Ethics laws, according to the director of the state Ethics Commission.

Among other things, the law prohibits using any personal property paid for by public funds for campaign purposes, and commission director Graham Sloan said a county vehicle would fit into that category.

Sloan would not talk about Johnson’s case specifically but said in general terms that a candidate who was using a publicly owned vehicle to pick up campaign signs or to go door to door handing out campaign material would be a violation while cases like Johnson’s would have to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, based on the circumstances.

Johnson said Friday she was not aware that using her car to attend the fundraiser could be a violation of the ethics law.

“I left work and went directly there and didn’t go home and get my personal car,” Johnson said.

A list provided by the county judge’s office shows a 2006 Chevrolet Trail Blazer is assigned to the county clerk’s office and that is the vehicle Johnson drives.

She said she had used that vehicle to attend other fundraisers but “I’m going to drive my personal car until the election is over.”