Sen. Jake Files paid off a $6,868.16 hot check the same day he got a $30,000 loan from lobbyist Bruce Hawkins, records obtained by the Arkansas Times show.
We asked Sebastian Prosecutor Daniel Shue for any records of completed or pending investigations of Files for alleged hot checks.
He responded promptly with a letter detailing resolution of one such complaint. His response:
It stems from a check he wrote March 20 on his FFH Construction account to Allison Tile Sales of Fort Smith for $6,868.16. It was returned for insufficient funds. The company wrote Files March 26 asking for payment, plus $25 for a service charge on the returned check. Vincent Allison swore out a warrant on the charge on April 6.
On April 10, the prosecutor notified Files of the complaint. The standard form said Files could make restitution by April 20 or an arrest warrant would be issued. He was told he had to pay the amount in cash, plus a $90 fee to the prosecutor and a $30 fee to the merchant, for a total of $6,988.16. The file from Shue shows his office received that amount from Files in cash on April 20.
April 20 was the day, the Arkansas Blog first reported, that lobbyist Bruce Hawkins made a $30,000 loan to Files. Files had told us he had sufficient bank credit, but “somebody” had suggested Hawkins as a possible source for a loan his real estate venture J3 Partners needed. Hawkins said he merely did a favor for a friend and referred questions about Files’ need for a loan back to Files.
Though the loan was made April 20, Hawkins didn’t report it until Oct. 15, passing up at least two opportunities to report the loans on lobbyist activity reports in June and July. There is no specific prohibition against loans by lobbyists to legislators, but they must be reported. Additional questions could be asked if loans weren’t repaid or no interest was required.
Hawkins has said Files made no payments on the loan until repaying it in full in a lump sum on Oct. 14, with $439.01 in interest. Hawkins said his own late report of the loan was a product of busy times at the end of the legislative session April 22 and miscommunication with the person who prepares his lobbying report.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has also reported the state had filed two liens against Files, who is chair of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee. The Department of Finance and Administration filed a lien of $1,368.91 against Foster, Files and Harris LLC of Fort Smith for unpaid withholding taxes on Sept. 2. The state Department of Workforce Services filed a $2,440.80 lien over delinquencies on Oct. 13. The newspaper account indicated those liens were being worked out.
I’ve called Files seeking further comment, but so far haven’t heard from him.
A search of records also shows a debt suit was filed against FFH Construction LLC May 12 in Fort Smith district court by Sherwin-Williams and dismissed July 10.