The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported this morning
QUESTIONS: For Sen. Jake Files.
on information dug up thanks to Fort Smith city official diligence of the mounting questions about tstate Sen. Jake Files actions in overseeing building of a $1.6 million sports complex for the city.
It has been pitched by Files as a volunteer effort by a nonprofit organization from which he will make no profit. It has failed to meet construction deadlines.
The latest news is the finding of irregularities in bidding documents for subcontractors, which Files apparently prepared. The legitimacy of the bids and the subcontractors themselves seem to be open to question.
Files also has been tapping General Improvement Fund money that he controls to support payments to his nonprofit. In all, the city has advanced Files more than $1 million for the incomplete project.
As recently as December, Files was seeking more GIF money for the work. This is state surplus, divided upby legislators in a process that has been challenged in court as unconstitutional. Former Rep. Micah Neal
recently pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from GIF money he'd directed to nonprofit groups and other legislators had roles in directing significant sums to the same nonprofits. No one else has been charged.
If ever there was a time to look pure on GIF money, that time has been in recent months, given the ongoing federal probe of GIF spending.
Legislation in Joint Budget that I've seen recently provides a vehicle to continue the General Improvement Fund category in some fashion, though the surplus on which the pork barrel has relied in the past may not be available this year. Gov. Asa Hutchinson
has said he wants to put an end to the pork barreling. Legislators are addicted however.
Files' financial difficulties burst into the news last year
when we reported that lobbyist Bruce Hawkins had made him a $30,000 personal loan that helped Files deal with business liens.