Arkansas House Speaker suspends Rep. Gates after arrest for failing to pay taxes

by Talk Business & Politics staff ( 1,079 views 

Add Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, to the growing list of Arkansas legislators arrested, indicted or convicted of various crimes in recent months. Gates was arrested Thursday (June 28) for failing to pay income taxes for a reported 14 years.

Gates, who owes $259,841 to the state, surrendered to authorities with the Arkansas State Police Thursday, according to a report from KATV, a content partner with Talk Business & Politics. “Willfully” failing to file tax returns is a class D felony, according to state law.

Arkansas House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, R-El Dorado, said Gates has been suspended from his leadership and committee duties.

“I have been made aware of the arrest of Rep. Gates this morning. It is deeply troubling to hear of any member of the House facing criminal charges,” Shepherd said in a statement. “In light of today’s developments, I have suspended Rep. Gates, effective immediately, from all House leadership and select committee positions and responsibilities. These positions include Chairman of the Aging Subcommittee of the House Aging, Children and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee, Vice-Chair of the Joint Budget Personnel Subcommittee, as well as his membership on the Joint Budget Committee and Joint Performance Review Committee.”

Shepherd also said House leadership will determine “what further action may be necessary.”

Documents filed in Garland County Circuit Court show that Gates, 57, has not filed income taxes between 2003 and 2017. Thursday’s arrest resulted from an investigation that began in March when Jack McQuary, special prosecuting attorney for the 18th Judicial District, asked the Arkansas State Police to investigate Gates for failing to file income tax returns.

The investigation found that Gates was notified by the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) in October 2011 he was being audited. The audit was completed in September 2015. Gates was interviewed June 15, 2018, by ASP Special Agent Joe Pickett. In his affidavit, Pickett said Gates said he thought he had settled with the DFA and was paying $1,500 a month on a $30,000 settlement. Gates told Pickett he thought DFA had filed returns on his behalf for years 2007-2015. Gates admitted in a second interview he had not done enough to address the situation.

Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs

“First of all, all of this is my responsibility. … Had I done everything right and correct; even if I was audited I still would not have all of the other late consequences. So, I don’t ever want to make it sound like it’s not my fault,” Gates said according to Pickett’s affidavit.

Gates has served two terms in the Arkansas House and faces Democratic candidate Kevin Rogers in November.

“It’s unfortunate for the people of District 22 that our representative has refused to serve adequately, as well as broken the law for his entire time in public service. Our people deserve an elected official fully committed to continuing our pre-kindergarten and afterschool care program, to establishing a loan program to stimulate small businesses in rural communities, and to funding our world-class state medical system,” Rogers said in a statement released by the Democratic Party of Arkansas.

Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, and Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman, is asking for more than Gates’ suspension.

“Yet again, we see how the continued corruption at our State Capitol is eroding the trust Arkansans have placed in their public servants. Representative Gates’s inability and refusal to follow the law displays not only an abuse of power, but also a failure to the people of his district,” Gray said. “The only acceptable action must be for Representative Gates to resign immediately. Republican Chairman Doyle Webb should also join in calling for Rep. Gates to do the right thing and leave the legislature. Having lawmakers that follow the law should be non-partisan.”

Webb did not call for Gates to resign from office, but he did agree with Speaker Shepherd that Gates should resign from his leadership posts in the legislature.

“All citizens deserve the right to due process, but when a public servant like Mickey Gates is charged with a serious offense he should do the right thing to restore strong, ethical, accountable leadership. We call on him to relinquish all positions of leadership in the State House until these alleged offenses can be rectified by him, or resolved through the legal process. If he is found to have committed these offenses, he should resign his office immediately,” Webb said.

FBI-led public corruption cases have resulted in convictions and guilty pleas by five former legislators whose crimes were associated with the state’s General Improvement Fund. The GIF allowed legislators to directly or indirectly provide money to grantees. A sixth legislator, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, was accused of receiving improper payments by convicted lobbyist Rusty Cranford in a plea agreement. Hutchinson has not been charged with a crime. He has resigned from his law firm but not from the Legislature.