Hollingsworth campaign officials say no substance to ethics complaint

Allegations made against the 2012 mayoral campaign of Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth in a complaint filed Oct. 11 with the Arkansas Ethics Commission reveal nothing more than clerical oversights, according to two of her campaign aides.

Randy Smith, who served as Hollingsworth’s 2012 campaign accountant, and Ben Trevino, who served as campaign manager, both said Wednesday that the allegations made in the complaint by Stanley Walker — son of First Ward alderman and 2012 mayoral candidate Thelma Walker — are little more than nitpicking.

Hollingsworth said Wednesday that Walker’s allegation that she used her power as mayor to single him out and try to have his business closed for delinquent taxes is untrue. The mayor said she was in the process of preparing a response to the allegation.

In his filing Walker alleged that the Hollingsworth campaign failed to file a final election report.

“The failure to file a final campaign finance report was an oversight on my part and on Ben’s part,” Smith said, referring to Trevino. “This was not the mayor’s fault however because it was the responsibility of me as the accountant and Ben as the campaign manager to get this done.”

Smith said that he is working on the final report and is also preparing an amended pre-election report to address several non-substantive errors made in the original, which was filed Oct. 26, 2012.

“The math stays the same,” Smith said. “There will be absolutely no difference in the figures from the original pre-election report and the amended report. It’s just a matter of adding things like the addresses of each donor along with the names and dollar amounts. We made photocopies of every check we received so it’s just a matter of going through them and adding the information to the amended report.”

Walker alleged in his complaint that the Hollingsworth campaign did not account for $8,005.24 listed in the pre-election report as the campaign balance.

“What you have to understand is that the dollar amount listed is a snapshot in time,” Smith said Wednesday. “The very next day we had invoices come in that had to be paid and the day after that. We had to have a couple of additional fundraisers, in fact, to have enough money to pay all of our campaign obligations.

“When the final campaign finance report is filed a dollar amount will be listed,” Smith said. “Those funds will be marked as carryover for use in the next campaign.”

Walker alleged that the Hollingsworth campaign failed to disclose the cumulative value of the in-kind contribution of Harvey Sizemore.

“If you look at the section in the pre-election report labeled ‘Nonmoney Contributions’ you can see that we have the amount of $1750 listed,” Trevino said as he pointed to the relevant page on a copy of the document. “We have the total under the category ‘Value of nonmoney item’ and not in the column right next to it for ‘Cumulative Totals for This Contributor.’ “

Walker also alleged that the Hollingsworth campaign listed an itemized monetary contribution from what was listed as “Unknown Contributor” in the amount of $600.

“We had a fish fry on March 8, 2012 and received a total of $600 in cash contributions at that event,” Smith said. “You can see on the section of the report titled ‘Itemized Monetary Contributions Over $50’ where an amount of $600 is listed. That is the cash total from that event and should have been added to the section reserved for total nonitemized monetary contributions.”

Smith said the final report will list the $600 amount in the correct spot.

“Again, there is no change to the actual dollar amounts,” Smith said. “It’s just a matter of moving the amount to the right place on the form.”

Trevino provided the response to Walker’s allegation in the ethics complaint that the Hollingsworth campaign paid $1,000 in cash for UAPB Tailgate advertising.

“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 that the funds were redeposited into the ampaign account.

While Walker alleged that the Hollingsworth campaign did not provide records showing how much campaign workers were paid, Trevino had a simple answer.

“None of our campaign workers were paid because they were all volunteers,” Trevino said. “We did hire canvassers to place campaign literature around town but these were not campaign workers. Their fee is listed as a paid campaign service just like advertising agencies are.”

Smith was puzzled as to Walker’s allegation that the Hollingsworth campaign did not state specifically and show receipts for $35,678.58 shown in the “Other Advertising” section of the report.

“We have every expenditure listed in that pre-election report down to the penny,” Smith said. “I really can’t understand what he’s [Walker] talking about.”