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Ethics violations, impeachment threats compel Mark Darr's early exit

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January 15, 2014


By Maresa Strano

Little Rock, Arkansas: "Politics can be a toxic business. I will no longer subject my family to its hard lessons," Democratic Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas Mark Darr said in a statement last week explaining his decision to step down from office, effective February 1, 2014.[1] Darr announced his resignation on January 10, 2014. [2][3]

After an investigation by the Ethics Commission in January 2013, Darr acknowledged his 11 violations of state ethics and campaign laws since 2010. He then agreed to pay $1,000 in fines for each violation. Darr spent $31,572.74 of his campaign funds for personal use. He also lacked adequate records, did not itemize loan repayments, accepted improper reimbursement for travel, and received excess contribution to retire his campaign debt. A different legislative audit completed in December, 2013, revealed over $12,000 in improper expenses incurred by the Lieutenant Governor's office.[4][5] Darr maintains that the violations were oversights and he did not profit off of them. Despite threats of impeachment, Darr, who said there was no public call for his resignation, initially refused to leave office. Governor of Arkansas Mike Beebe called for Darr to resign the day after his acknowledgement of the violations.

"It would be an immediate fix to tuck tail and run but I would regret it for years to come. I am a normal citizen, who ran for office, who is trying to do my job to the best of my ability with integrity and character," Darr said.[6]

Soon after settling with the ethics commission for $11,000, Darr was facing the threat of impeachment if he did not step down. To avoid the potential ugliness of such proceedings, he announced he was "submitting his resignation to the people of Arkansas, not an elected official." In fact, he had submitted it to House Speaker Davy Carter and Senate President Michael Lamoureux.[7][2][3]

Even before he decided to leave office one year before his term's scheduled expiration date, Darr's political prospects were up the air. Shunning the possibility of running for re-election as lieutenant governor in 2014, Darr declared last August his candidacy for an open seat in the U.S. House, representing Arkansas's 4th District in 2014.[8][9][10][11][12][13] The much-hyped congressional bid proved short-lasting, however, with Darr entering the race August 12, 2013, and, two weeks later, shutting down his campaign amid accusations of misconduct.[2][14]

Prior to entering politics, Darr was a pizza shop owner and insurance agent.[15] It is unclear as of January 15 if and when Darr will be replaced after he formally vacates the office February 1.

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