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Pillager of state

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Like Goldilocks in the bears' house, but not as cute, Secretary of State Mark Martin helped himself to whatever he wanted at the state Board of Apportionment, unconcerned that the property belonged to someone else. Ethics has never been Martin's best subject. As a legislator, he was an incorrigible fudger of expense accounts.

The Board of Apportionment, consisting of the governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state, meets every 10 years to redraw the state's legislative boundaries after the federal census. The current board was allotted $200,000 to work with. At the board's first meeting last week, the governor and the attorney general were dismayed to learn that Martin had already spent $70,000 of the board's money, without authorization or consultation. He used the funds to buy a car and to hire a former Republican legislator as the board's director of redistricting. Martin is the only Republican member of the board.

Governor Beebe and General McDaniel were remarkably gracious on discovering Martin's rash behavior. Beebe, apparently not well acquainted with Martin, suggested that the new secretary of state might not have known he was doing anything wrong. Even so, Beebe and McDaniel laid plans to hire a different person as the board's redistricting director. The Republican former legislator will apparently go on the secretary of state's own payroll. Payment for the new car, too, will become the secretary of state's responsibility.

Experts predict this will be the first of many irregularities during Martin's tenure as secretary of state. People are already starting to refer to his predecessor, Charlie Daniels, as "Charles the Good." By comparison, it's justified.

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