Ethics questioned in Randolph County campaign

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - UPDATE April 13:  The group "Keep Randolph County Safe" tells Region 8 News that they've not missed any filing deadlines with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

Proponents for alcohol sales in Randolph County questioned why the group hadn't filed financial reports with the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

They said fliers from the group were mailed out in February, information that should have been reported by mid-March.

Keep Randolph County Safe responded to the allegations.

Here's the statement they sent to Region 8 News:

"Keep Randolph County Safe did not open a bank account nor make any campaign committee expenditures that required reporting on the February financial reports. Monthly financial reports become required once a committee raises or spends $500 or more dollars, this threshold was not met in the February reporting period. The committee did not open a bank account nor receive any contributions or make any expenditures until March. As required by the Arkansas Ethics Commission, contributions and expenditures made in the month of March will be properly reported on the upcoming financial reports due on April 15" – Keep Randolph County Safe


Campaigns are underway for some local-option ballot questions in Region 8. Already, there are questions of how ethically some of those campaigns are being run.

In Independence and Randolph counties, groups are pushing to go wet.

In each of those counties, there are groups opposing the measure too.

Recently, Region 8 News gathered information from the Arkansas Ethics Commission on how much money those campaigns have raised and spent.

In Randolph County, the group Keep Revenue in Randolph County reported more than $30,000 in contributions from various businesses and residents.

The opposing group, Keep Randolph County Safe, did not file any contribution reports to the commission.

"They're way past due," Linda Bowlin said.

Bowlin, who serves as chairperson for Keep Revenue in Randolph County, said her committee is following the rules spelled out by the Arkansas Ethics Commission.

She questions whether Keep Randolph County Safe is doing the same.

"There are a lot of rules that we have to follow," Bowlin said. "One of the main rules is the reporting requirements. We have to report monthly where our funding is coming from and what our expenditures are and where our expenditures go to."

According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission, local-option ballot question committees, like Keep Randolph County Safe, must file a Statement of Organization within five days of receiving contributions or spending more than $500 in expenditures.

Keep Randolph County Safe filed that paperwork on Feb. 29. Since then, no paperwork on campaign contributions has been filed.

In a phone conversation with an attorney for the Arkansas Ethics Commission, Region 8 News learned that some local-option ballot question committees file Statements of Organization without receiving or spending money.

However, Bowlin said her concern is that the group started sending out campaign literature in late February.

Bowlin told Region 8 News that she received a flyer in the mail from Keep Randolph County Safe on Feb. 24, five days before they filed their Statement of Organization.

"The financial report that would tell us where they got the money for this flyer should have been reported in mid-March, no later than March 15," Bowlin said.

On March 10, Keep Randolph County Safe also took out a full page ad in a local newspaper. According to the newspaper, the cost of an ad like that is $855.

March contributions and expenditures have to be reported by April 15.

Bowlin said she hopes the group meets that deadline so they can find out who is funding their campaign.

"We've got a pretty good grapevine around here and pretty good circumstantial evidence that that money is coming from outside Randolph County," Bowlin said. "It's outside business concerns that are trying to influence our election in Randolph County."

Region 8 News reached out to the group chairperson multiple times Wednesday. We have yet to receive a response.

According to the Arkansas Ethics Commission, committees that fail to file in a timely manner may face a late fee for each day the report remains unfiled.

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