- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Three weeks after saying he’d step down over ethics violations tied to his campaign and office spending, Arkansas Lt. Gov. Mark Darr made his resignation official on Friday.

Darr submitted his resignation letter to Secretary of State Mark Martin, stepping down in the wake of an $11,000 fine he received from the state Ethics Commission. Darr announced on Jan. 10 that would resign but hadn’t submitted a formal letter to Gov. Mike Beebe or any other officials.

“Effective February 1, 2014, I will resign from my position as the lieutenant governor of Arkansas,” Darr wrote in in the one-sentence letter, which was also sent to House Speaker Davy Carter and Senate President Michael Lamoureux. A spokesman for the secretary of state said he would distribute the letter to the other constitutional officers.

Darr agreed Dec. 30 to pay the $11,000 in fines imposed by the state Ethics Commission for 11 separate violations, including making personal use of more than $30,000 of his campaign funds.

Darr insisted that those violations, as well as improper spending a separate agency found on his state credit card, were unintentional, and had vowed to stay in office. He initially rebuffed calls to step down, but resigned after facing impeachment threats from Democrats and fellow Republicans in the Legislature.

Beebe had said he was unsure whether Darr’s resignation would be official without a formal letter. In announcing his decision to step down earlier this month, Darr called it a resignation letter “to the people of Arkansas, not an elected official.”

Darr’s office had later said he would follow all formal protocols for resigning, but stopped short of saying whether that would include an official letter. Darr’s resignation letter was dated Jan. 21, and a spokeswoman said the lieutenant governor had asked her to wait until Friday to submit it to Martin’s office.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Beebe, said the letter makes Darr’s resignation official.

Legislative leaders have said they’ll push for changing the state law to keep Darr’s office vacant for the rest of the year rather than hold a special election. State law requires the governor to call a special election within 150 days of declaring Darr’s office vacant, but lawmakers from both parties have said they’d prefer to keep the office unfilled since the general election will be in November.

Beebe said this week he’d sign into law legislation being drafted that would give him the discretion to not call a special election if the general election is within 11 months of the vacancy. The proposal is expected to be introduced for the session that begins Feb. 10.

The formal letter came a day after the Ethics Commission released its investigative report on Darr. In the report, investigators said Darr blamed the ethics violations that led to his resignation on “carelessness.”

The report detailed more than $31,000 in campaign funds that Darr used on food, fuel and other personal items since taking office in 2011. Darr had loaned his campaign more than $170,000 in 2010, but the ethics commission said that spending the funds on personal items was not a legal way to retire that debt. The figure also includes more than $5,700 Darr spent after he retired the debt his campaign owed him.

“In essence, Mr. Darr spent $31,572.74 in campaign funds as they were his own,” the report said.


Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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