Judge: Secretary of State Mark Martin broke the law

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 181 views 

A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge today (Aug. 12) ruled that Secretary of State Mark Martin (R) violated state law by hiring outside legal counsel to the tune of more than $100,000 instead of using attorneys already on staff, or using the Arkansas attorney general's office.

Liberal blogger Matt Campbell had originally sued Martin in July over a violation of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, when Martin did not provide documents requested in a June 2 FOIA request and would only provide other documents in a format that Campbell had not requested.

In defending the lawsuits, Martin enlisted the services of an attorney from the Little Rock-based law firm of Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow.

In a court filing, Campbell cited Arkansas Code § 25-16-702, which states, "The Attorney General shall be the attorney for all state officials, departments, institutions, and agencies. Whenever any officer or department, institution, or agency of the state needs the services of an attorney, the matter shall be certified to the Attorney General for attention.”

The law also states that any person violating the law "shall be subject to indictment and upon conviction fined in any sum not less than two hundred dollars ($200) nor more than two thousand dollars ($2,000) and, upon proper proceedings, removed from office.”

Following today's ruling, it did not take long for Democrats to take aim at Martin, who has previously confirmed through his spokesman, Alex Reed, that he will seek re-election to his post next year.

Executive Director Candace Martin of the Democratic Party of Arkansas said the case should be referred to a prosecutor.

"Secretary Mark Martin has abused Arkansas tax dollars since he was elected, but today’s ruling showed Mark Martin’s complete disregard for the law. This indictable offense deserves being referred to a prosecutor so Mark Martin can answer to the full degree of the law for his irresponsible and reckless actions against the people of Arkansas," she said.

Democratic members of the Arkansas House of Representatives also put the heat on Martin, equating his actions to that of former Democratic State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who resigned in disgrace and is now awaiting trial after she was arrested by federal agents following a sting operation, where she allegedly accepted bribes amounting to thousands of dollars in exchange for funneling state bonds to a specific investment company.

"Arkansans over recent months have been betrayed by Martha Shoffner's abuse of authority and now are faced with Mark Martin's disregard for Arkansas law," said Rep. Joe Jett, D- Success. "Arkansans should be able to trust that our statewide officials will follow the law and Secretary Martin has betrayed that trust."

House Minority Leader Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, was more direct, saying, "It's my understanding that Secretary Martin's actions are indictable and I believe Arkansas tax payers deserve their day in court."

Republican Party of Arkansas spokesman David Ray said he had not been able to review the case, referring all questions instead to Martin's office.

Alex Reed, Martin's spokesman, said, "We are filing an appeal." He did not respond when asked whether outside counsel or staff attorneys from the Secretary of State's office would handle the appeal.