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Dillinger violates ethics code

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger said he did not know he was doing anything wrong when he violated state campaign laws.

On Aug. 18 the Arkansas Ethics Commission held a probable cause hearing after his opponent in the 2006 primary sheriff's race, Terry Dailey, and his write-in opponent for the November election, Charles Dabbs, filed multiple complaints against Dillinger for campaign ethics violations committed during the primary election.

Though Dillinger did not attend, he did sign a written acknowledment that he had violated three codes of conduct.

Dillinger admitted to the charges of using a Fulton County vehicle to distribute campaign cards, using a county vehicle to transport campaign signs and to distributing campaign information and items out of the Fulton County Sheriff's Office.

By committing these actions, Dillinger violated Arkansas ethics code 402(a) which states: "No public official or state employee shall use or attempt to use his or her official position to secure special privileges or exemptions for himself or herself."

The Ethics Commission issued Dillinger a public letter of warning and charged him with a $100 fine.

The complainants in the case, Dailey and Dabbs, were both sent letters regarding the outcome of the commission's hearing.

"Any elected official, especially the sheriff, is elected to uphold the law, not break it," Dailey said.

"Our county's top law enforcement knowingly, repeatedly broke the law to get the job (of sheriff)," Dabbs added. "What makes you think he will stop?"

Dillinger said his actions were not done purposefully. He said he did not do anything that he had not seen people do in past campaigns.

"It's been done before. I didn't know that I was doing anything wrong," Dillinger said. "Mr. Dabbs tried to make claims that I lied to the commission. I didn't lie to them; I don't lie to anybody."

The commission does not have the authority to remove an official from office; however, because Dillinger acceptanced an offer of settlement, he is vulnerable to removal from office if the Fulton County Quorum Court chooses to further investigate the matter.

Dillinger also discussed Tod Allen, the investigator from the Arkansas Ethics Commission who came to the Fulton County Sheriff's Office to conduct the interview regarding the case.

"Mr. Allen said that I could be here 30 years. He recognized that people like me," Dillinger said. "I try to do a good job. (Charles) Dabbs is just looking for problems."

Information regarding Dillinger's case can be viewed at www.arkansasethics.com.

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