An Arkansas state senator is being denied access to Senate offices and legislative meetings after it was determined that he made a frivolous ethics complaint against a colleague.
It was decided by a 26 to 4 vote by a Republican majority legislature to suspend GOP Sen. Alan Clark until January 8, 2023, the end of its session.
The Associated Press reported that “The Senate earlier this month rejected a complaint Clark had filed against Democratic Sen. Stephanie Flowers accusing her of improperly receiving per diem payments for legislative meetings she attended via Zoom. The ethics panel ruled that Clark had filed the complaint as retaliation after the Senate stripped him and another lawmaker of their leadership posts after Clark sought reimbursement for a meeting he didn’t attend.”
Republican Sen. Kim Hammer, the ethics committee chair, said, “the committee felt that the comments and actions of Senator Clark, including bringing these ethics petitions for the purpose of retaliation, were bringing dishonor and disruption to the institution of the Senate.”
Clark was not present at the hearing, as he had planned a trip with his family, but accused the state Senate of punishing him for being a whistleblower.
“How can we be expected to fight corruption and wrongdoing in government if we can’t reveal and stand against our own questionable behavior?” he said. “I am saddened for this body that I love, more than anything else.”
“Rules the Senate adopted during the coronavirus pandemic allowed members to participate remotely, but not receive per diem funds. Flowers had not requested the payments and repaid the money in August after she realized she had received them because of a clerical error, the ethics committee found,” the AP report said, adding, “The ethics committee cited comments Clark made before filing the complaint on social media and a picture that circulated of him wearing a scarlet “E” — similar to the scarlet “A” worn as punishment for adultery in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter — at a Republican Party event after he was sanctioned by the Senate.”
Clark will lose access to Senate offices and resources, including his email account, and will be barred from participating in legislative meetings except for organizational meetings for the next General Assembly. The Senate also voted to recommend that Clark lose his seniority to the next General Assembly.
This is the first time a senator has been suspended since a 2018 overhaul of the Senate’s ethics rules, which were enacted after several lawmakers were implicated in a federal corruption probe. After suspending Clark, the Senate also voted to change its rules to require that an ethics complaint be filed by at least three senators, rather than just one.
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