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Ethics complaint against McMahan dismissed

June 23, 2014

An ethics complaint filed against Bauxite Mayor Johnny McMahan by Bauxite resident Deborah Purifoy has been dismissed.

The complaint, filed April 1, alleged that McMahan utilized city resources to advocate the passage of a half-cent sales and use tax measure presented to Bauxite voters on May 20, 2014.

The proposed tax failed by seven votes.

McMahan was notified that an investigation would take place in response to the allegations and would focus on whether he violated the Disclosure Act for Public Initiatives, Referenda, and Measures Referred to Voters by failing to file financial reports in connection with hid efforts to expressly advocate the passage of the ballot measure.

The efforts investigated included the use of public funds to cover the printing costs for newsletters, a straw poll, and a flier related to the tax.

On June 20, the Arkansas Ethics Commission determined that the evidence collected during the investigation did not support findings of probable cause that the Disclosure Act had been violated.

The outcome of the probe is outlined in a letter sent to the mayor from the commission. The letter stated: "After considering both the results of the investigation and the applicable law, the Commission decided, by a vote of 4-0, with Commissioner Bird not present, that the complaint should be dismissed."

The letter further stated: "The evidence reflected that you did use pubic funds to make certain expenditures pertaining to the tax measure, but that the amount of such funds which were attributable to your efforts was nominal and fell below the $500 threshold. Moreover, the evidence did not reflect that you called upon voters to vote for or against the measure in the newsletters, straw poll, or flier you prepared. Accordingly, the Commission determined that you did not fail to file any financial reports in violation of the Disclosure Act."

When asked for a response about the dismissal, Purifoy said: "The money accounting started when the sales tax was placed on the ballot, not before. Johnny did not expressly use the term 'vote for,' but he continually spoke and wrote to encourage the passage. The law has a fine line with lots of wiggle room."

McMahan, in response to the commission's decision, stated: "The investigator for the commission did a thorough and complete probe and nothing surfaced that violated state law. From the very beginning I believed it would be dismissed, as the complaint was without merit, was frivolous and a waste of taxpayers' time, but it was an easy and simple way to harass me on the cheap."

McMahan concluded by saying, "I'm trying to hold the Town of Bauxite together with Scotch tape, rubber bands and paper clips and people like her (Deborah Purifoy) are trying to dismantle it for entertainment."

Purifoy said, "Johnny cannot speak ill of West Bauxite citizens and have our support at the same time."

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