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story.lead_photo.caption A view of the Arkansas State Capitol building, looking west.

Fourteen political action committees, represented by Fayetteville attorney Brenda Vassaur-Taylor, have signed settlements of ethics complaints in which the committees acknowledge violations of state ethics law in 2016, according to Arkansas Ethics Commission records.

They agreed to pay fines collectively totaling $1,450 and each received a public letter of caution.

Kendall Bond of Russellville said he filed about 30 ethics complaints in January against these political action committees as well as candidates in the 2016 primary election over unregistered PACs making contributions to other PACs and candidates, and unregistered PACS receiving contributions before they were registered as a PAC.

Bond said in a letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette earlier this year that his ethics complaints revolve around Fayetteville businessman Joe Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor, and "these two remain active in politics, heavily influencing elections across the state."

Maynard and/or Vassaur-Taylor were listed in the secretary of state office's records in 2016 as officers for most of these 14 PACs and have clashed with Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

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Vassaur-Taylor said Friday that "the facts remain that this was a clerical error on our part."

"There was no malintent nor hidden money nor under the table donations. All donations and parties were disclosed," she said in a written statement.

Vassaur-Taylor said there was a small window of time in early 2016 when the PACs were not registered.

"A clerical error was made in our office by an employee failing to put our completed registration forms in the mail at the same time she mailed the PAC 2015-4th quarter financial reports," she said.

"The signed and notarized registration forms sat on a shelf unnoticed until [state Rep.] Jana Della Rosa filed her first round of complaints against one of our candidates in February 2016. Through Della Rosa's complaint, we discovered the error and filed the registration forms immediately."

Vassaur-Taylor said she suspects that Della Rosa was behind Bond's ethics complaints.

Della Rosa said Monday that "I was not behind the recent complaint filed by Kendall Bond."

Bond could not be reached for comment Friday or Monday.

Della Rosa, who lost in the March 31 runoff election to Kendon Underwood of Cave Springs, said she doesn't "recall filing a 2016 complaint against one of Vassaur-Taylor's candidates."

Vassaur-Taylor said Della Rosa filed a 2016 complaint against House candidate Isssac Foley. But Foley said Della Rosa didn't file the complaint against him.

Della Rosa said she filed a complaint recently against Brenda Vassaur-Taylor "for failing to timely register the Truth in Politics #1 [independent expenditure committee] or to file a financial report for all of the tv and radio ads it ran against me in February of this year."

Della Rosa said Vassaur-Taylor "did eventually register the IEC (after the deadline) which is how I knew she was part of it. But there are STILL no financial reports for it to this day. The election was March 3rd. Is this also going to be considered a 'clerical error'?"

Vassaur-Taylor countered that Della Rosa needs to learn how to better check the filings.

"The independent expenditure committee was registered on Feb. 18, 2020 online and again the next day by fax with the affidavit being mailed via certified mail," she wrote. "An amended registration was filed in person on February 24, 2020, with the [Secretary of State's] office in [Little Rock] at the same time as the timely IEC expenditure report was filed in person."

Complaints and Sanctions

According to letters dated in April to Vassaur-Taylor from commission Director Graham Sloan, the settlements of the ethics complaints filed by Bond involve the following political action committees and the following sanction:

• AR Business Services of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• AR I-Structure of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• AR Manufacturing First of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as officers in 2016.

• AR Millenial PAC #1 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Patrick Deakins of Springdale was listed as its officer in 2016.

• AR Millenial PAC #2 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Deakins was listed as its officer in 2016.

• AR Millenial PAC # 3 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Deakins was listed as its officer in 2016.

• AR Natural Resources of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• AR People First of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• AR Trade First of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• Commerce in Action of Fayetteville, $100 fine and public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as the PACs officers in 2016.

• Conservative Women of Arkansas of Fayetteville, $150 fine and a public letter of caution. Lauren Taylor of Springdale and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2015, and Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2017.

• Truth in Politics #1 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• Truth in Politics #2 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

• Truth in Politics #3 of Fayetteville, a $100 fine and a public letter of caution. Maynard and Vassaur-Taylor were listed as its officers in 2016.

In addition, state Rep. Austin McCollum, R-Bentonville, settled an ethics complaint filed by Bond in which McCollum agreed to receive a public letter of caution for accepting contributions from prohibited political action committees in 2016, according to a letter dated April 3 from Sloan to Bond.

An unsuccessful state Senate candidate, R.D. Hopper, R-Cabot, settled an ethics complaint filed by Bond in which Hopper agreed to receive a public letter of caution for accepting contributions from prohibited PACs that were not registered at the time the contributions were made in 2016, according to a letter dated April 9 from Sloan to Hopper.

So far this year, the ethics commission has dismissed complaints filed by Bond against now state Sen. David Wallace, R-Leachville; Court of Appeals candidate Job Serebrov; Reps. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, and Josh Miller, R-Heber Springs; and unsuccessful House candidates Phillip Finch of Batesville and Derek Goodlin of Rudy and, saying the matter alleged in the complaint, "even if true is time barred," according to commission records.

In March, the commission dismissed a complaint filed by Bond against Foley, saying Foley settled a similar complaint with the commission in 2016.

General News on 04/21/2020

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