The Alliance for a Better Arkansas Inc. group has paid a $500 fine and been issued a public letter of caution by the Arkansas Ethics Commission in a settlement of complaint filed against the organization, commission records show.
Other ethics commission records released last week show the Women of Color Vote PAC and lobbyist Roger Smith, a former Republican state representative from Hot Springs Village, have been issued public letters of caution by the ethics commission in settlements of complaints filed against them.
Gennie Rebecca Diaz -- an authorized representative for the Alliance for a Better Arkansas Inc. -- signed a settlement offer in which it was agreed that the ethics commission would make a finding that the alliance violated Arkansas Code Annotated 7-62-220 by failing to properly fill out certain financial reports as an independent expenditure committee for 2020, commission Director Graham Sloan said in a letter dated May 10 to Diaz.
Although the group disputed that it was an independent expenditure committee, evidence gathered during the investigation reflected that the group was formed May 22, 2020, started soliciting contributions in July 2020, registered as an independent expenditure committee Oct. 2, 2020, and began making independent expenditures during October 2020, which was soon after it submitted its registration as an independent expenditure committee, Sloan said.
The evidence showed that the group's overall expenses for fiscal 2020 were $370,809, and about $84,096.54 of those expenses were made for the purpose of making independent expenditures in Arkansas in calendar year 2020, Sloan wrote in his letter to Diaz.
"It was the AFBA's position that it was an 'other entity' making independent expenditures, but was required to register as an [independent expenditure committee] in order to file reports," Sloan said. "However, the Commission concluded that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding that the AFBA met the definition of an [independent expenditure committee]."
He said Tyler Jordan filed the ethics complaint against the Alliance for a Better Arkansas Inc., and the commission mailed the group a certified letter containing a copy of the complaint on Sept. 9, 2021.
Regarding the Women of Color Vote PAC, Sloan said in a letter dated May 10 to state Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, that the commission issued a public letter of caution to the PAC as a result of her signing a settlement offer under which it was agreed that the commission would make a finding that the PAC violated Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-215 by failing to file a PAC report in a timely fashion for the first, second, third and fourth quarters of 2021, and by failing to file its PAC registration renewal in a timely fashion for 2022.
The Women of Color PAC filed the quarterly PAC reports for 2021 on March 15, 2022, making the first quarter report 334 days late, the second quarter report 243 days late, the third quarter report 151 days late, and the fourth quarter report 59 days late, Sloan said in his letter.
The Women of Color Vote PAC filed its PAC registration renewal for 2022 on March 15, 2022, making that registration 59 days late, Sloan said.
Regarding Smith, Sloan said in a letter dated May 10 to Smith that the commission issued a public letter of caution to him as a result of him signing settlement offer under which it was agreed that the commission would make a finding that he violated Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-603 (a) (2) by failing to file lobbyist activity reports on time for the months in question in 2021.
The initial ethics complaint against him alleged that he failed to file lobbyist activity reports for the months of August, September and October, all of 2021, and the investigation was later expanded to include whether he failed to file a lobbyist activity report for the month of December 2021, Sloan said.