GUESTS IN DALLAS: One of the groups of NLR cops and family treated to a Dallas Cowboy game by owner Jerry Jones.
The Arkansas Ethics Commission
gave word this week that it will initiate an investigation into a complaint against Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones
, North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith
, the North Little Rock City Council
, and Sgt. Michael Gibbons
, president of the Fraternal Order of Police chapter.
was filed in November by Russ Racop
of Little Rock, who runs the Bad Government in Arkansas
blog. Racop's complaint alleges that a free trip to Dallas Cowboys games given by Jones to North Little Rock cops (including tickets and paid travel and hotel accommodations) violated a state law prohibiting gifts worth more than $100 to public servants.
Jones, a North Little Rock native, made the offer to Gibbons of free tickets, travel, and accommodation to any one of the Cowboys' final five home games. Based on FOI requests, Racop determined that 120 of 178 officers took the free trip —with family a total of 367 people. The total value of the gift was more than $300,000 according to an email written to officers by Gibbons.
The city of North Little Rock then passed a resolution
that acknowledged the potential ethics issue but attempted to skirt it:
The City Council expressly intends that the benefits described in this Resolution shall be deemed to be received by the City and passed directly to NLRPD uniformed officers without diminishment, according to the intent of the donor, without regard to actual receipt by the city. The City Council further intends that, for the purpose of compliance with state ethics laws including A.C.A. 21-8-801, the benefits described in this Resolution shall be deemed to be benefits from the governmental body which the officers are entitled to receive.
Racop, in his complaint, argues that this presents precisely the sort of conflict that the ethics laws are meant to prevent:
Racop has also noted that a significant amount of police work time was devoted to handling the complicated logistical arrangements.
Racop's complaint has not been popular among those who saw Jones' gift as a feel-good story; former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has volunteered free legal services for anyone stuck in a bind over the issue. Still, it seems that Racop has a point that the law was potentially violated. A first violation is a minor offense, punishable by a warning.
: Racop sends word that he has received a letter confirming investigation into Gibbon as well.] Racop says on his blog
that he received letters from the Ethics Commission stating that he had filed a proper complaint and the Commission is initiating investigations into Smith, the City Council, and Jones, but no letter was received concerning Gibbon, also named in his complaint.