AR-Sec. State: Dr. Strangebilling (Or How Mark Learned To Stop Worrying And Bilk The Taxpayer)

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    Republican candidate for Secretary of State Mark Martin is the gift that keeps on giving, and, by “giving,” I mean “finding ways to suck taxpayer money into his own pocket.” His problems abiding by certain rules for office reimbursements are certainly well documented, so I decided to take a closer look at some of his mileage reimbursements. That’s when I noticed September 15, 2009.

    Take a peek at this:

    I circled the two meetings on 9/15 because of this:

    Now, we know that Martin was at the 9:00 a.m. meeting in Little Rock because he live-blogged it. There is no corresponding live blog for the 9:00 a.m. meeting in Batesville, most likely because Martin has not yet found a way to bend the space-time continuum and be in two places at the same time. (Honestly, you’d think someone with his level of technological expertise would have managed that by now.)

    Oh, but there’s more. From 9/14/2010 through 9/18/2010, Martin billed $517.00 for mileage incurred. The mileage reimbursement rate for 2009 was $.55/mile, so $517 equates to 940 miles driven (517/.55).

    According to Google Maps, it is 208 miles from 123 N. Pittman, Prairie Grove, AR to 1325 N. St. Louis, Batesville, AR (where the Rural Fire meeting was held). That gives Martin 208 miles for 9/14/2010 (the first day of the Rural Fire meeting). From there, Martin either (a) drove to Little Rock (97 miles) or (b) unnecessarily returned home (208 miles) and then drove to Little Rock (200 miles, meaning he left about 4:30 in the morning to make the 9 a.m. ALC meeting). Therefore, his cumulative miles as of the 9:00 a.m. ALC meeting at the State Capitol were either 305 or 616. Assume, just for the sake of this, that he then drove back to Batesville to attend part of the Rural Fire meeting on 9/15 — after all, he took a full day of per diem during his attendance at that meeting, along with his full day of per diem for attending the ALC meeting on the same day — and then drove back to Little Rock for the 9/16 – 9/18 meetings. His cumulative totals, once you include his drive home on 9/18 would be either 700 miles or 1010, neither of which matches up with the 940 for which he billed.

    If you calculate the more likely scenario — that he drove to Batesville, then to Little Rock for four days of meetings, then back home, and that he did not attend the 9:00 a.m. Rural Fire meeting on 9/15 — the total is 505 (208 to Batesville, 97 to LIttle Rock, 200 to Prairie Grove).

    In any scenario, however, this much we know: Martin could not have simultaneously attended a meeting in Batesville and a meeting in Little Rock, both of which started at 9:00 a.m.; Martin received two days worth of per diem on 9/15 apparently based on his claim of having attending the two meetings; none of the scenarios, even if you give Martin the benefit of the doubt, work out to 940 miles, which is the amount he billed you for.

    Nor is this the only such incident of questionable billing.

    On 5/24/2005 and 5/25/2005, Martin billed a total of $222.75 for his mileage to attend two meetings in Hot Springs. Hot Springs is 190 miles from his home and it is 55 miles from Little Rock. The reimbursement rate for that portion of 2005 was $.405/mile, meaning he billed you for 550 miles. The only way I see that he can get even close to that total (rather than, say, billing you for the 380 miles to drive from his house to the meetings and back) is if he is billing Prairie Grove to Little Rock to Hot Springs to Little Rock to Prairie Grove. Even that would only amount to 490 miles, however.

    Besides, according to the Legislative website and Martin’s own records, there were no meetings for him to attend immediately prior or subsequent to the Hot Springs meetings. At best, I guess he could have driving to Little Rock to let other people ride with him to Hot Springs — why he would do this is anyone’s guess — and then had to drive back to Little Rock to drop them off. But, like I mentioned, even in that ridiculous scenario, the actual mileage still comes up about 60 miles short of what he billed you.

    Similarly, between 4/14 and 4/18/2008, Martin billed $319.65 for meetings attended in Little Rock and one in Brinkley, AR. Brinkley is 69 miles from Little Rock, the reimbursement rate was .505/mile, and Martin’s total equates to 633 miles. His total should have been 400 (the Prairie Grove to LR round trip) plus 138 (LR to Brinkley) for a total for 538. However, if Martin chose to (incorrectly) bill you for the Prairie Grove to Brinkley round trip (500 miles) plus Little Rock to Brinkley (138), that would pretty much match his total.

    I mean, it would be a complete lie designed to suck an extra hundred miles’ worth of reimbursements from you, but it would match.

    The irritating part of all this is that it might not even matter because most voters have no idea this has gone on. I spoke to someone over the weekend who seemed sure that Martin would win on Tuesday simply because of his name (and, impliedly, the fact that Arkansans pay so little attention to down-ballot races that many will actually think that they are voting for the NASCAR driver). If that happens, it will be due in large part to the Democrat-Gazette’s absolute journalistic failure with respect to covering Martin’s ongoing bilking of the of taxpayers throughout his time in office.