Ethics investigation targets County Democratic Committee

The Arkansas Ethics Commission is investigating whether the Jefferson County Democratic Central Committee improperly utilized public property for partisan political purposes as one of six separate allegations made in a citizen complaint submitted to the commission in mid-April.

The AEC said in a letter dated April 25 to complainant Stuart Soffer, who is the Jefferson County Election Commission minority party member but filed the complaint in an unofficial capacity, that the complaint met the statutory requirements for an investigation.

Soffer alleged that the committee’s April 15 first-quarter report to the AEC was transmitted to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Office using a fax machine in the office of Jefferson County Clerk Patricia Royal Johnson, noting that Johnson is also the vice chair of the JCDCC.

Soffer provided the AEC with a copy of the report containing the fax machine identification header reading ‘Jeff Co Clerk’ as proof.

The AEC said the focus of the investigation will be whether or not the committee violated state law by using the county clerk’s fax machine in this manner.

The AEC cited in the April 25 letter a section of Arkansas code that states that it is illegal for any public servant to use for campaign purposes any item of personal property that is provided with public funds.

Soffer said the complaint was necessary to address what he believes are serious ethical lapses by Johnson and JCDCC Chair Ted Davis.

“The purpose of filing this Ethics Commission complaint was to provide county Democrats insight into how their county committee is being managed,” Soffer said in an email. “Both county committees co-existed kindly for many years and I feel badly it had to come to this. However, given the number of people who approached me demanding something be done in response to Mr. Davis’ unacceptable actions on the election commission, I had no choice.”

Johnson said she had no part in the filing of the report.

“I didn’t do it,” Johnson said Monday afternoon. “It may have been somebody else that did it. I really can’t comment on it because I don’t know anything about it.”

A phone message left for Davis was not returned prior to press time.

Soffer leveled the bulk of his allegations at Davis and filed the complaint against Davis in his capacity as chairman of the JCDCC, before the AEC determined that the investigation would focus on the JCDCC as a whole.

Soffer’s complaint also alleged several errors in filings made by the JCDCC.