Beebe sign will stay up
After the Arkansas Times raised questions about his expenditure of carryover campaign funds, state Rep. Tommy Dickinson of Newport called back to say that he's reimbursing his carryover campaign fund the amount of the questionable expenditures. But the towns in his district that he gave money to will keep the money, including the $200 he gave Amagon to erect a sign declaring it the birthplace of Gov. Mike Beebe.
Dickinson said that some of the carryover funds went to charities, which is clearly legal under the state ethics laws, and he'd thought municipalities were in the same category. After learning there was a question about that, he decided he should make amends from his own pocket, he said. He said none of the contributions were made to advance the candidacy of his wife, Jody, one of four candidates for the House seat that Dickinson now holds. Tommy Dickinson can't run for re-election because of term limits.
A report filed by Dickinson on April 7 shows that he spent $4,169 of carryover campaign funds from Jan. 1 through March 31, including $200 to the city of Amagon, $500 to the city of Pangburn (for a new roof on city hall), $150 to the city of Beedeville, $500 to the city of Bradford and $150 to the city of Tupelo. Contributions to cities and towns are neither specifically authorized nor specifically prohibited by state ethics laws. The state Ethics Commission is the agency that decides whether an expenditure is permissible, and the commission would act only if someone filed a complaint.
Four high schools have told the Ray Winder Foundation that they'd like to use the Arkansas Travelers' former ballpark for their baseball programs, foundation board member Rex Nelson says — which would go part of the way toward satisfying some of the city's demands before it agrees to a five-year lease of the property.
The foundation, created by Nelson, attorney Russ Meeks and others to preserve the stadium, will need leases from both the city and the state, which own the land on which it sits. The state Department of Human Services has said it will agree to a lease if Little Rock does.
Nelson couldn't say Tuesday how much money the foundation would have to raise to get the stadium (still owned by the Travelers) and field in usable condition, but he's previously estimated that it could reopen for as little as $100,000. He said the city would like to see the park have multiple uses, including soccer, and a guaranteed “funding flow and plenty of clients.”
The schools that have contacted the foundation include Parkview, Hall, McClellan and Catholic. Nelson said other ball groups have expressed interest as well.