- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas Treasurer Dennis Milligan signed a settlement letter with the Arkansas Ethics Commission on Wednesday, agreeing to four findings of probable campaign reporting violations.

In return, the Republican will be issued a letter of warning and a $400 fine for improperly reported expenditures or campaign assets that were disposed of and not reported.

The commission found no probable cause in the other dozens of allegations in the ethics complaint filed by liberal blogger and Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell last year.

Milligan called the four findings “technical errors that I wish my former campaign volunteers would have reported correctly the first time,” in a written statement. “However, ultimately, I take responsibility for these reports and accounting errors. In hindsight, I should have hired a professional accountant to handle my campaign reports.”

Milligan attorney Byron Freeland said he felt the treasurer could have argued there was no violation in at least three of the findings, but it would cost substantially more time and money to fight the issue than to pay the fine. Freeland called the reporting system “broken” because it required a candidate to know and be responsible for what every volunteer on his campaign staff was doing.

Under new ethics rules, Milligan was allowed to file amended reports to address any “unintentional” reporting errors contained in the original ethics complaint, according to the 10-page letter issued last week by the commission said, and several amended reports had addressed some of those errors.

Campbell said the 30-day correction period allowed under the new rules, likely saved Milligan several findings of violation.

“I think it’s the height of ego to admit that the Ethics Commission found four violations but then to turn around and say that the entire investigation was a waste of the ethics commission’s time,” he said. “If it was a witch hunt, then the Ethics Commission found a witch because they found four violations of campaign finance reporting.”

The commission found probable cause that Milligan had not properly reported donated graphic design work his son-in-law had performed; that donated video editing work by one of Milligan’s staff members in the Saline County Circuit Clerk’s office had not been reported correctly; that payments of reimbursement to Jason Brady - Milligan’s volunteer campaign manager - were reported incorrectly; and that the disposal of at least three pieces of campaign equipment, including a guitar signed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee, were not reported.

The ethics commission fined Milligan $1,000 in March for hiring a cousin to work in the treasurer’s office, which was against state employment policies.

The state’s previous treasurer, Martha Shoffner, resigned and was later convicted of steering state investments to a broker who bribed her with cash.

When asked if he should resign over the violations, Milligan said Wednesday, “absolutely not … I feel that ultimately to ask for my resignation after it’s been proven that the charges against me were minor, though they were violations, that resigning is a little bit almost borders on ridiculous.”

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