LITTLE ROCK — A state senator said Thursday that state sanctions should put to rest an ethics case involving checks from his 2010 campaign that were deposited into the bank account of a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
In a settlement with the state Ethics Commission, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson received a public letter of warning and a $500 fine for failing to report campaign checks totaling $2,700 deposited into the personal bank account of Julie McGee in November and December 2010.
Hutchinson, who was married at the time and has since divorced, reported his actions to the Ethics Commission in November, after the Arkansas News Bureau reported the deposits and that the payments were not reported on any of Hutchinson’s campaign finance documents, nor was McGee listed as a paid worker for the campaign.
After an investigation, the commission on Dec. 14 found probable cause that Hutchinson violated state ethics laws by taking campaign funds as personal income, by failing to accurately disclose the expenditures on campaign finance reports and by failing to keep records of the expenditures.
Hutchinson returned a signed settlement letter to the commisson two weeks later and the panel acknowledged receipt of the settlement in a letter to the senator dated Wednesday.
Asked to comment on the settlement Thursday, Hutchinson said "It speaks for itself. I’m ready for this to be over with."
When first shown photocopies of the checks last fall, Hutchinson said the signatures on the checks were forged. McGee said the checks were authentic and that Hutchinson gave her the money for living expenses, writing the checks on his campaign account so his wife would not learn of the affair.
In previous interviews, Hutchinson said he did not report McGee as a paid campaign worker because he did not believe he was required to. He said she worked during the campaign as a volunteer and was paid only for work she did after the election, which he said involved cleaning out Hutchinson’s campaign headquarters and picking up signs, and that he paid her from personal funds, not campaign funds, and therefore he believed he did not have to report the payments.
Graham Sloan, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, told the Arknasas News Bureau in November — without specifically addressing Hutchinson’s case — that personal funds paid to a campaign worker must be reported and that the requirement does not make a distinction between work done before and after the election.