KATV reported yesterday on Blue Hog Report’s finding that Secretary of State Mark Martin continues to pay fees for outside legal counsel despite the ruling by a Pulaski circuit judge that state law clearly requires the secretary of state to get attorney general approval before hiring outside counsel. Martin has not done so in a number of cases and Blue Hog recently noted that Martin had resumed paying money to the private firms.
At the time this was first discovered, Martin’s spokesman Alex Reed told me the new payments were for work incurred before the judge’s ruling. Blue Hog noted then that this was a distinction without a difference. If the money couldn’t be spent, it couldn’t be spent, no matter the timing.
KATV’s coverage indicates the office has a new legal theory. Because the legislature has appropriated money in Martin’s budget for professional services, a term that includes legal fees, he can spend money on lawyers. Did the statute specifically override the other statute that requires attorney general approval of such spending? I don’t think so.
Blue Hog has a complaint pending with the prosecutor over Martin’s apparent law violation. I can imagine some reluctance by Prosecutor Larry Jegley to plunge into this because of political trappings, Martin’s brazen attempt to continue the practice as a demonstration of his belief in its legality and the fact that some other state agencies have failed to follow this rule in the past.
Perhaps the best course is an illegal exaction lawsuit against Martin, at least as to the new payments made after clear guidance from Judge Tim Fox.
Those Republican bulldogs at Legislative Audit perhaps should review this issue as well.