Settlement Approved In Lawmaker Reimbursement Case

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 93 views 

A lawsuit has been settled in a case involving expense reimbursements for Arkansas legislators.

For years, state lawmakers filed vague paperwork to receive reimbursement for expenses incurred in fulfilling their elected offices, such as office rent, supplies and travel costs. The arrangement has been described by some as a circumvention of Amendment 70, which outlines legislative pay.

On Tuesday (April 3), Pulaski County Judge Chris Piazza signed off on a lawsuit filed by the Arkansas Public Law Center claiming the expense reimbursements were unconstitutional.

Several parties involved were satisfied with the settlement, which requires more detailed accounting and auditing of the expense practices. But not all were pleased.

Nathan Vandiver with our content partner, KUAR-FM 89 News, notes:

Bernie Skoch is with the Arkansas Center for Ethical Government. He told the judge his organization is disappointed with the settlement.

“The core issue is our elected officials are funneling money to corporations they own, to businesses they own or to family members through this process. And it’s clearly, in our view, a means of enhancing their income unconstitutionally by Amendment 70,” Skoch said.

Though Skoch might have liked to see the suit go to trial, Bettina Brownstein, lawyer for the Arkansas Public Law Center says the settlement is sufficient to fix the problem.

“The fact that they have to itemize, document, substantiate the expenses they’re claiming,” Brownstein says improves legislative accountability. “Anyone can do a freedom of information act request and get those documents and look at them if they have any question about it.”

You can read and listen to more of Vandiver’s report at this link.