by Max Brantley
Attorney general's opinion issued today has this summary of a question from the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee:
QUESTIONS: 1) Does the public purpose doctrine cited in Ark. Const. art. 2, sec. 8, or any other law, prohibit expending public funds on athletic facility membership dues and fees for a prosecuting attorney and his or her deputy prosecuting attorneys? 2) Does the public purpose doctrine cited in Ark.
Const. art. 2, sec. 8, or any other law, prohibit expending public funds on athletic facility membership dues and fees for other agencies' law enforcement personnel?
* Q1) The applicable law does not appear to contemplate using public funds to purchase a private
gym membership in the name of a prosecutor or his deputies. ...
* Q2) This question cannot be answered categorically; instead, I believe the pertinent analysis in each instance will entail a factual consideration of the extent to which physical conditioning might be described as bearing directly on an officer's ability to perform his official duties. Only a finder of fact could determine whether in any given instance the expenditure of public funds to promote the physical fitness of law enforcement officers would be statutorily or
Subject to this proviso, in my opinion, when a particular law enforcement job requires that an officer meet a minimum standard of physical fitness, I believe a reviewing court might consider it constitutionally permissible to expend public funds to purchase a gym membership for that officer. More generally, if a department lacked the
physical facilities to conduct its own conditioning program, I believe a reviewing court might approve as constitutionally appropriate a public contract providing qualifying officers access to private athletic facilities. I have found no Arkansas authority directly addressing this issue.