Christopher Brockett, one of the lawyers who've filed a taxpayers suit over what they allege is illegal use of state cars for personal purposes. has sent to us a copy of an anonymous letter, purportedly from a state employee. It more or less says, "Sic em."
Neither Brockett nor I can testify to the accuracy of this letter. But high-level employees throughout state government and higher education are provided cars, often more on account of their rank than their need for official travel, and many of those cars are used for personal purposes.
The point of the letter is that 1) lower-paid employees resent the freebies and 2) they fear speaking up because of retribution, such as the firing of a land commissioner's office employee who told the truth (effectively blowing the whistle on) his boss' use of two cars for personal purposes.
The point, too, is that a great deal remains to be discovered. I wonder how many state agencies are reviewing their free vehicle lists, checking sufficiency of reimbursement records and maybe even reconsidering whether it is legal for state property to be used at all for personal use. The lawsuit argues it is not, whether reimbursed adequately or not.
I'm guessing the lawyer would be happy to hear from anybody else who'd like to share information about the state auto fleet. He's CBrockett@handsark.com
PS — Republican Jim Keet continues to try to make an issue out of this relative to Mike Beebe, though I notice he's not seeking any reimbursements or making any criticism of the car and plane use by Republican Lt. Gov. and Gov. Mike Huckabee. Huckabee did some political travel — and packed kids along — in the course of running a previous gubernatorial plane into the ground. I'll believe Keet is serious about executive spending when he goes after one of his own, too.
KEET NEWS RELEASE
Tonight at the Republican Governors Dinner former Senator Jim Keet will again call on Mike Beebe to reimburse Arkansas taxpayers for his misuse of state vehicles and to sell the expensive $5 million state airplane.
Keet will be a featured speaker at the dinner which starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Embassy Suites.
Keet will detail why the use of state owned vehicles is in violation of Amendment 70. The issue is not whether constitutional officers paid taxes, but whether they used the vehicles for personal use in violation of Amendment 70.
The following are advance excerpts.
“Mike Beebe said he did not know what the law required, but that it was “tradition and practice” to use these expensive cars for personal travel. The tradition and practice of the good old boy network in Arkansas does not trump the law. The people of this state expect elected officials to obey the law, particularly the Arkansas Constitution. The current episode is an outrage, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. That is why several weeks ago I presented the first six points of an ethics reform plan for Arkansas. I will examine the rest of the iceberg as this campaign develops.”
“I call on Mike Beebe to do the right thing, just as Dustin McDaniel did. Set the right example. Write a check to the state treasury for the full amount of personal car use. I do not know how much he declared as income on his tax return—perhaps he will disclose that to the people. If that amount fairly represents the amount he drove the car for personal use then that amount—not 7% of that amount—is what he owes the taxpayers.”
“We need to sell the $5 million dollar plane Mike Beebe bought within the first months as Governor. That is the type of excessive spending we must cut out.”
Keet will touch on these issues and others as he speaks tonight and tomorrow at the Republican State Convention. He will speak at the convention between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m., that event is also at the Embassy Suites.