The first meeting of the Arkansas Board of Apportionment started off on a somewhat contentious note. Gov. Mike Beebe questioned Secretary of State Mark Martin about $70,000 in expenses that had already been made out of the board’s $200,000 budget. Martin’s office used the funds for a vehicle, a consulting contract and to hire Tim Hutchinson, a Rogers attorney, former legislator and son of the former U.S. Senator, as the reapportionment coordinator. Both Beebe and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said they would not call the expenses improper. Beebe said it was possible that those funds should be included in the secretary of state’s budget and not that of the apportionment board.
“Up to this point, I’ve followed what the traditional process has been,” Martin said.
“I think the traditional process is that we do this as a board,” Beebe said, “or that you check to make sure it’s okay to make those expenditures.”
Beebe suggested the board hire Joe Woodson as the reapportionment coordinator, given his experience as an attorney and a former employee of the secretary of state’s office. Martin told reporters afterward that even though Hutchinson had been temporarily hired for that position, he would not be opposed to the board considering both.
Beebe said it was “ironic” that funds had been used to purchase a state vehicle, although he said he did not think this issue presented any obstacles for the board. Martin said the vehicle was purchased for extensive travel throughout the state including education efforts and to meet with county officials to discuss the reapportionment process. He said there was some confusion about the expenditures, but that the issue would be cleared up by the time the board meets again on April 6.
A report from the state finance department showed Martin's expenditures included $19,000 to Legacy Consulting, a DeQueen-based professional firm; $6,473 to Hutchinson; $26,629 to Lewis Ford in Fayetteville for the vehicle, and $10,553 for furniture (a purchase that was made by former secretary Charlie Daniels, says Martin's spokesperson, Alice Stewart). Other money went for office rental and $1,117 in contributions to Tim Hutchinson's state retirement benefits.
Legacy Consulting is the business of Chad Gallagher, a former Christian bookstore operator who lost a re-election bid for mayor of DeQueen amid much controversy over his management. He became a political aide to Mike Huckabee afterward and stirred a bit of controversy in his presidential campaign by adding Republican names to a list of Huckabee endorsements without their permission. It's unclear what his role in apportionment would be.
It seems appropriate to remember that free-spending Mark Martin is a statewide official for a party that stopped a $6,000 appropriation increase yesterday for the Arkansas School for the Deaf, apparently as part of pressure from House Republicans to force the Senate to pass a tax cut for the wealthy. Rep. Ed Garner, whose serial failure to remit state taxes owed for his business, argued unsuccessfully for the tax cut for the wealthy in a Senate committee this morning.