Tue, Jul 12, 2022 3:16 PM
By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square
The Arkansas Senate will decide Monday whether to sanction two of its members.
Sen. Mark Johnson, R-Little Rock, said he did not know Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, was not at a June 3 Boys State meeting when Johnson signed a sheet for him at Clark's request. Clark requested per diem pay for attending the meeting.
Staff members reported that Clark was not there to senators. Clark was not paid the per diem and an ethics complaint was filed by Senate Pro Tem Jimmy Hickey.
Johnson and Clark are facing a reprimand and removal from their leadership positions if the full Senate agrees with recommendations made by the committee. They also would not be eligible for per diem and mileage for attending interim meetings for the remainder of the current session.
Johnson said he put Clark's name on the sheet after Clark sent him a text saying he was ill.
"From this, I inferred that Senator Clark had been in the Senate chamber during the time when I had gone to my doctor's appointment," Johnson told The Center Square in an email last month. "He is a trusted colleague and I thought this would be permissible. I did this courtesy for him in good faith, believing that he had been there while I was out of the building."
Johnson called the incident a misunderstanding and "certainly not the level of transgression that he accused me of doing."
The committee said they did not find Johnson's "reasoning persuasive" because of a text message Clark sent Johnson that said "Would y'all sign me in? I am at Capitol Hill but running a fever so don't come over."
Clark told the committee he was sick and running a fever at the time of the Boys State meeting.
"As long as I had driven myself over here, spent the night for the express intent of attending the Boys State meeting I just as well go sign in," Clark said in an email to Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Kim Hammer included in a separate report. "I had incurred the expenses."
The Senate report notes that Clark attended a legislative meeting the day before the Boys State event. Clark attended a Republican meeting after Boys State ended and had lunch with a colleague.
"I shouldn't have gone," Clark said in the email to Hammer about his lunch appointment. "I wasn't using the best judgement.
Clark said he was outside the capitol building when he texted Johnson.
"I was not at home or across town," Clark said in his email. "I was just outside the door. The only reason for not entering the building and signing in personally was my desire, in my fever-addled mind, to not infect the teenagers."
Johnson and Clark did not immediately return messages seeking comment.