Ethics commission investigating Soffer

Stu Soffer of White Hall, a member of the Jefferson County and state election commissions, said Friday that he welcomes a complaint filed against him with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

In a Wednesday letter, AEC Director Graham F. Sloan advised Soffer — the lone Republican on the three-member county election panel — that the AEC would be investigating Stanley Walker’s accusations that Soffer filed false information in ethics complaints against Pine Bluff City Council members Glen Brown, George Stepps and Thelma Walker.

Stanley Walker, a son of Thelma Walker, also charged that Soffer presented false statements against former Pine Bluff City Collector Albert Ridgell.

“I really hate it when somebody brings a knife to a gunfight,” Soffer said of Stanley Walker’s effort. “I don’t think his complaint was well thought out.”

The AEC three weeks ago accepted a $200 fine in a settlement with Thelma Walker, who also received a public letter of caution. Brown settled with a $100 fine and a similar letter.

Thelma Walker and Brown were determined by the agency to have violated state law concerning filings of campaign financial records.

“This is a frivolous complaint by a desperate man,” Soffer said of Stanley Walker and his filing. “I don’t believe this complaint falls under the jurisdiction of the commission, but if it does, I welcome it because that will allow me to re-open the case against Alderman Walker on the Ridgell situation.”

Ridgell was fired twice by Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth. The first firing was overturned by a vote of the city council but an effort to override the second firing fell one vote short. Thelma Walker voted to reinstate Ridgell on both occasions.

An effort to contact Stanley Walker on Friday failed. Thelma Walker said her son is not willing to speak to The Commercial because she said the newspaper has been unfair to him in its coverage, “twisting his words around.”

Soffer, who said his complaints against the three council members resulted from investigations requested of him by a group of “black and white” citizens “worried about Pine Bluff’s future,” was asked if he was paid for his services.

“What I did was a public service,” he answered. He said any financial arrangements concerning his investigative work are “nobody’s business but my own,” but he would report any earned income on his tax records.

The AEC has not yet rendered final dispositions on Soffer’s complaint against Stepps or Stanley Walker’s complaint against Hollingsworth.