Gov. Beebe has declined to accept box seats at the Cotton Bowl. This isn't a big deal but I think it shows his dedication to avoiding an "appearance of impropriety" even if accepting box seats was legal. I don't know if our former Governor ever accepted box seats but he certainly didn't have any problems with improprity, and made accepting gifts a custom.
Beebe declines box seats
Cotton Bowl sponsor AT&T also offers travel to game
Gov. Mike Beebe said Thursday that he’s rejected an offer from AT&T to sit in the company’s box seats during Tuesday’s Cotton Bowl pitting the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville against the University of Missouri.
“They said there’s a box I could sit in,” the governor said. “I told them, ‘Thanks, but no thank you.’ They were very nice.”
The Cotton Bowl’s main sponsor is AT&T, which does millions of dollars of business with the state.
Beebe said he, like most Arkansans, is going to watch the Cotton Bowl on television. He said he’ll probably watch the game in Little Rock or possibly in Searcy, where he has a home.
He said the discussion with AT&T didn’t last long enough to get into how many seats AT&T would provide for the governor or for whom.
“I don’t know what the value is, but I am sure that is more than we would ever do. I didn’t feel like it was appropriate for me to take advantage of that very kind offer,” Beebe said.
He said he doesn’t take things from people who lobby him as a general rule.
The governor declined to say who made the offer from AT&T.
“It doesn’t make any difference. It was declined,” Beebe said.
Beebe spokesman Grant Tennille said AT&T also offered to fly Beebe to the Cotton Bowl game on a company plane, and Beebe didn’t know about that offer.
He said Beebe, a Democrat, would have sat in a box with Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican.
A spokesman for AT&T Arkansas and AT&T Missouri, Ted Wagnon, said AT&T officials “are committed to following state ethics laws and rules for public disclosure.”
Blunt’s press office didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Beebe received an undergraduate degree from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro and a law degree from the UA.
In the past fiscal year, AT&T was paid about $25 million under various contracts by the state, according to Joe Giddis, director of the Office of State Procurement.
A public servant is allowed
to accept gifts in certain circumstances under Arkansas’ ethics rules, but he is barred from receiving a gift costing more than $100 if it is intended to reward him for doing his job or for past or future actions as a government official.
For example, a public servant may accept a gift conferred on account of “a bonafide, professional or business relationship independent” of his status as a public official under state Ethics Commission rules.
Department of Information Systems Director Claire Bailey has reported receiving, among other things, tickets from AT&T through Rick Marendt, a senior account manager for AT&T, for things such as a World Series game in St. Louis and a UA football game in Fayetteville.
Wagnon has said the gifts provided through Marendt to Bailey were allowed under the “personal, business or professional relationship” provision. Marendt and his wife have a personal friendship and business relationship with Bailey that is independent of her official position, according to Wagnon.