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Justice of the peace fined $50, warned on GOP trip expenses

by Michael R. Wickline | October 6, 2018 at 3:14 a.m.

A justice of the peace has agreed to pay a $50 fine and receive a public letter of caution in a settlement with the Arkansas Ethics Commission for failing to timely disclose on her 2016 financial disclosure report gifts to her covering trip expenses to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

On Monday, Craighead County Justice of the Peace Billie Sue Hoggard signed a settlement offer from commission Director Graham Sloan in which she agreed to the finding that she violated Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-701 for failing to timely disclose the travel and other trip expenses on her 2016 Statement of Financial Interest.

Sloan released this settlement letter Friday. Hoggard could not be reached by telephone on Friday afternoon.

An ethics complaint that the commission mailed in April alleged that Hoggard arranged for travel on a private plane provided or secured by Chad Niell, owner of Tiger Correctional Services. The firm has a contract with Craighead County and Hoggard has direct oversight of Tiger's business with the county as a member of the Quorum Court, Sloan said in his letter to her.

The complaint said Hoggard served as the chairman of the Craighead County Republican Committee and at the same time Niell served as vice chairman. She initially failed to disclose financial gifts of travel, meals and lodging and possibly other expenses related to the trip to Cleveland, Sloan said.

At its June 22 meeting, the commission concluded that "the affirmative defense" provision provided under Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-229 "had not been met with respect to the alleged violation" of Arkansas Code 21-8-701, Sloan said in his letter to Hoggard. The "affirmative defense" in 7-6-229 would allow her to amend her report within 30 days of learning of the problem.

Hoggard filed an amended statement within 30 days of learning her alleged violation, but she did not include the cost of operating a private plane, which is needed in reporting the value of the gift, Sloan said.

At its Sept. 21 meeting, the commission voted 5-0 in deciding probable cause existed for finding Hoggard violated Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-701, Sloan said.

"There was no indication that you intentionally omitted the gift or intentionally miscalculated an estimated value in you[r] initial amended SFI and the commission notes that you have since filed an additional, amended SFI," Sloan wrote in his letter to Hoggard.

Hoggard reported her portion of the private plane round-trip flight, in which she was one of eight people, was valued at $306 paid by George Stem; her portion of half of the gas paid by Niell was valued at $94; and six nights of lodging in a hotel room in Cleveland valued at $975.12 provided by Niell.

Metro on 10/06/2018

Print Headline: JP fined $50, warned on GOP trip expenses

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