Ethics committee recommends suspension of Sen. Clark for 'frivolous' complaint against Sen. Flowers

Arkansas state Sens. Alan Clark (left), R-Lonsdale, and Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, are shown in these undated courtesy photos.

The Arkansas Senate Ethics Committee has ruled the ethics complaint filed by state Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, against Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, was frivolous.

The committee has recommended that the Senate suspend Clark for the rest of this year and strip him of seniority this year and for the next two years.

Clark thinks the committee is mistaken. "I would rather defend my position than theirs when the public learns all the facts," he said in a written statement Friday. 

Sen. Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs, who urged the Senate to overhaul its ethics rules in June of 2018, praised the committee's recommendation on Friday.

"During our adoption of our new Senate ethics rules, I warned that we must not allow ethics complaints to become weaponized," he tweeted. "The first ethics complaint ever filed was exactly that. So was this one.

"Glad the ethics committee is sending a message -- a clear message."

Under the Senate's revised ethics rules, Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, filed the first ethics complaint against Hendren, who is now an independent.

In November 2020, the Senate dismissed that complaint as frivolous. The Senate Ethics Committee later held a closed hearing on Garner’s complaint and recommended the Senate dismiss the complaint before Garner withdrew it.

12:55 p.m.: Ethics committee rules Sen. Flowers didn't violate ethics rules

The Arkansas Senate Ethics Committee ruled Friday that Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, didn't violate Senate ethics rules in response to a complaint filed by Sen. Alan Clark.

The committee said the Senate's overpayment of legislative expenses to Flowers was a staff clerical issue.

Clark, R-Lonsdale, has acknowledged filing an ethics complaint against Flowers but insisted Thursday that his ethics complaint wasn't frivolous. The Senate committee was still meeting in a closed door session at 12:30 p.m. Friday, suggesting it could recommend further action.

The latest ethics meetings come a week after the committee met in an executive session for more than nine hours about the complaint. The Senate’s ethics rules give the committee the authority to convene in closed sessions about ethics complaints.

Flowers has served in the Senate since 2011 and was in the House of Representatives from 2005-2011. Clark has served in the Senate since 2013. Flowers is an attorney. Clark is a businessman. They have clashed at times in the Senate.

Arkansas Senate records show that Flowers turned in a check dated Aug. 11 to reimburse the Senate for $2,714 for 46 days of per diem payments. Flowers also turned in a second check dated Aug. 22 to the Senate for an additional $217.60 in per diem and mileage reimbursements, according to records obtained through the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

Flowers’ reimbursements to the Senate came after Clark queried the Bureau of Legislative Research in the last week of July about how many Senate Judiciary Committee meetings Flowers had attended in the 2021 regular session and how many meetings she attended by Zoom, according to bureau records.