Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth was fined $250 and Ward Three Alderman Bill Brumett was fined $100, with public letters of caution sent to both, after investigations by the Arkansas Ethics Commission into their campaign finance filings.
In a letter from AEC Director Graham Sloan dated Dec. 19, 2013, Hollingsworth was notified that probable cause was found to support allegations made by local businessman Stanley Walker that she violated state law regarding campaign finance reports during her 2012 mayoral campaign.
The AEC found that Hollingsworth failed to file a final contributions and expenditures report and disclose the balance of her campaign funds at the close of the reporting period; failed to disclose on her pre-election contributions and expenditures report required information in connection with the itemization of contributions received; and made a cash expenditure in excess of $50 in connection with the itemized expenditure on her pre-election C & E report disclosed as “Cash-UAPB Tailgate” for “advertising” on Oct. 20, 2012, in the amount of $1,000.
Hollingsworth signed a written settlememt offer of settlement and returned it to the AEC.
Walker also alleged in his complaint that Hollingsworth used her position as mayor to attempt to collect delinquent taxes from a restaurant owned by Walker in an effort to force the closure of the restaurant, that she failed to disclose required information in connection with paid campaign workers on her pre-election report, and that she failed to disclose required information in connection with an expenditure of $35,678.58 categorized as “other advertising.”
The commission ruled that no probable cause existed to find a violation on those allegations.
Sloan said in the letter to Hollingsworth that the $250 fine represents $150 for failing to timely file a final C & E report; $50 for failing to disclose required information on her pre-election C & E report; and $50 for the cash expenditure in excess of $50.
“This was our first go-around with having to do all of these filings,” Hollingsworth said Friday. “The mistakes that were made were clerical errors. At the end of the day none of the amounts changed and there was no misappropriation of funds.”
Hollingsworth expressed her appreciation for the job done by the AEC.
“They are doing their job and they have a tough job,” she said. “They were great to deal with. They were very accommodating and quick to respond to any questions that we had.”
Hollingsworth campaign manager Ben Trevino responded to Walker’s allegation that the campaign paid $1,000 in cash for a UAPB Tailgate fundraiser in a Nov. 6, 2013, conversation.
“We had planned to have a cookout fundraiser at the UAPB Homecoming game last October,” Trevino said. “I withdrew $1,000 in cash from the campaign account at what was then Pine Bluff National Bank to purchase what was needed for the cookout. I wrote on the check that it was for UAPB Tailgate to have a record of what the withdrawal was for.”
Trevino said that the campaign did not end up having the cookout and the funds were redeposited into the campaign account.
“The report clearly shows that the $1,000 went back into the campaign account,” Hollingsworth said Friday.
In a letter to Hollingsworth dated Jan. 2 Sloan noted that she had filed an amended pre-election C & E report and a final C&E report with the Jefferson County Clerk’s office.
Walker, who is a son of Ward One Alderwoman and 2012 mayoral candidate Thelma Walker, filed his complaint against Hollingsworth with the AEC in October of 2013.
In a letter from Sloan dated Jan. 17, Brumett was notified that probable cause was found to exist for finding that he violated state law by failing to timely file a pre-election C & E report and a final C & E report during the 2010 election cycle.
Brumett signed a written settlement offer and returned it to the AEC.
Sloan noted that Brumett filed a C & E report with the Jefferson County Clerk’s office on Dec. 9, 2013 that included the periods of time covered by both the pre-election and final C & E reports.
“I just failed to file them on time,” Brumett said Friday afternoon. “I have no excuse. I just didn’t get it in on time. But as the investigation showed, all of the documentation is there and there are no other issues with the report other than it was filed late.”
Brumett applauded the work of the AEC.
“I was very impressed by how they handled everything,” Brumett said Friday.
Barbara Muhammad filed the citizen complaint against Brumett.
In all, citizen complaints were filed with the AEC against five of the eight Pine Bluff City Council members as well as Hollingsworth.
Ward One Alderwoman Thelma Walker was fined $200 and sent a Public Letter of Caution after a citizen complaint from Stu Soffer was filed in late 2013. The AEC found that Walker violated state law by failing to file the appropriate campaign finance reports and by filing an inaccurate statement of financial interest. The AEC noted that the campaign finance reports have now been filed and the statement of financial interest has been amended and notarized as required by state law.
Ward Three Alderman Glen Brown was fined $100 and sent a Public Letter of Caution after a citizen complaint from Soffer was filed in late 2013. The AEC found that Brown had violated state law in regard to the campaign finance reports and the statement of financial interest. Graham’s letter noted that the statement of financial interest has been amended.
Ward Four Alderman George Stepps was issued a Public Letter of Caution and fined $100 by the AEC after it determined that he had violated several sections of state financial disclosure regulations in calender years 2011 and 2012.
Ward Two Alderman Wayne Easterly was fined $150 and issued a Public Letter of Caution after a citizen complaint from Gary Wilson was filed in late 2013.
Stanley Walker also filed a complaint against Soffer, who is a member of the Jefferson County Election Commission, in late 2013. The commission unanimously dismissed that complaint.