Several Fort Smith school board candidates miss financial report deadline

by Michael Tilley ([email protected]) 2,334 views 

Only four of the 13 Fort Smith Public School Board candidates filed their required “campaign contribution and expenditure report” by the May 17 deadline, according to documents provided by the office of Sebastian County Clerk Sharon Brooks.

Candidates Dee Blackwell (Zone 3), Madeline Marquette (At-large Zone 1), School Board member Dalton Person (Zone 5), and Phillip Whiteaker (Zone 1) submitted the form on or before the May 17 deadline required by state law. The law requires a candidate who has received or spent more than $500 on the campaign to submit the form.

The following candidates did not file by the deadline and had not filed as of May 18: School Board member Troy Eckelhoff (Zone 1); Sandy Dixon and Brittany Hall (Zone 2); Ryan Goodwin (Zone 3); Tara Mendoza (Zone 5); School Board member Matt Blaylock (At-large, Zone 1); and Taylor Chase and Davin Chitwood (At-large, Zone 2).

Blaylock and Eckelhoff told Talk Business & Politics they did not hit the $500 threshhold. School Board member Talicia Richardson is running unopposed for the Zone 4 seat and is not required to file a disclosure.

School board elections statewide are May 24. School board candidates also must file a post-election contribution and expenditure report by June 30.

Drew Blankenship, a staff attorney with the Arkansas Ethics Commission, said violating the filing law could result in fines ranging from $50 to $3,500. Violators may also receive a letter of reprimand from the commission, he said. Blankenship said a complaint would have to be filed with the commission to expedite a review of a school board candidate failing to file a disclosure.

The Fort Smith School Board approved a new zone map with five single-membered and two at-large positions for school board representatives based on the 2020 census data. All seven of those representatives will be elected May 24, though not all seats will be elected for the same term length. Though all seats will eventually have a five-year term, as opposed to the three-year terms they had before, a straw vote will be held after the election results are certified to determine how long each seat’s term (one, three or five years) in order for elections of the positions to be staggered. Each of the new zones have approximately 18,200 residents.

Person, who is seeking re-election to a second term, said filing the required forms shows a respect for transparency in the election process.

“I agree that candidates for public office should be transparent with the voters, and I have tried to do that throughout this current campaign,” Person said in a note to Talk Business & Politics. “This campaign contribution and expenditure report, that is required to be filed with the Sebastian County Clerk, is a part of the transparency process, and I was happy to comply. I am a proponent for more transparency, and I believe the system works best for all of us when everyone complies.”

Talk Business & Politics has reached out to Mendoza, Person’s opponent in the Zone 5 race, to see if she collected or spent more than $500.

Following are the amounts received and spent by the candidates who filed their reports.
• Dee Blackwell
Contributions: $1,300
Expenditures: $748.80

• Madeline Marquette
Contributions: $1,815
Expenditures: $1,619.81

• Dalton Person
Contributions: $8,249.99
Expenditures: $7,761.51

• Phillip Whiteaker
Contributions: $449.99
Expenditures: $442.42