Darr submits resignation letter; Saturday is his final day in office

LITTLE ROCK — Lt. Gov. Mark Darr sent his official resignation letter to the secretary of state’s office Friday afternoon signifying that he would be leaving office on Saturday.

The resignation ends a difficult last few months for the embattled Darr, who dropped out of the 4th District congressional race in late August after reports surfaced of discrepancies in his campaign expenditure reports.

In late December, the Ethics Commission reprimanded the Republican lieutenant governor and fined him $11,000 for 11 violations of state ethics and campaign finance laws. The panel said it found evidence that Darr used campaign money to make about $31,500 in personal purchases, received about $3,500 in improper travel reimbursements, accepted $6,000 in campaign contributions that exceeded the individual limit and submitted campaign finance reports that omitted required information.

After calls for his resignation by Gov. Mike Beebe and state leaders in both parties, Darr announced Jan. 10 that he planned to resign on Feb. 1. He said his resignation was intended to spare his family from the “toxic business of politics.”

“Effective February 1, 2014 I will resign from my position as the Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas,” Darr said in the one-sentence resignation released Friday by both his office and the office of Republican Secretary of State Mark Martin. The letter was dated Jan. 21.

A copy also was sent to House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, and Sen. Pro Tem Michael Lamoureux, R-Russellville.

Traditionally, letters of resignation by constitutional officers are sent to the governor. Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the letter also was transmitted to Beebe, “so, yes, we think that that makes it a pretty clear and official resignation.”

DeCample said the governor supports a draft bill he has seen that would allow him to forgo calling a special election to fill the soon-to-be-vacated lieutenant governor’s office.

A state law requires a special election to be held within 150 days of a vacancy being declared in the lieutenant governor’s office, but House and Senate leaders have said that with the office up for election in November anyway, they favor avoiding the expense of a special election if possible.

The measure would leave it to the discretion of the governor whether to call a special election if a vacancy occurs in the lieutenant governor’s office within 11 months of a regular election for the office, Beebe told reporters Wednesday.

The Senate president pro tem would serve as governor when the governor leaves the state.