Arkansas governor says lawmaker should resign or be ousted

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas’ governor said Friday that a state lawmaker who pleaded no contest to not paying state income taxes should be removed from office if he doesn’t resign.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson repeated his call for state Rep. Mickey Gates to resign, saying it his fellow Republican has no business keeping his job under the circumstances.

“It is unacceptable for a public official, particularly a state legislator, to continue to hold office after being found guilty of a criminal violation of our tax laws,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “He should resign or be removed from office.”

Gates pleaded no contest Monday to one count of not filing or paying income taxes and was ordered to serve six years of probation. He was arrested last year and charged with not filing state tax returns from 2012 through 2017.

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Gates entered his plea under a law for first-time offenders that allows the case to be dismissed after he serves probation and fulfills other obligations of his deal with prosecutors. Under that law, Gates doesn’t have a felony conviction since a final judgment has been deferred.

Matthew Shepherd, the Republican speaker of the Arkansas House, said Thursday that Gates should resign and he wouldn’t rule out seeking the Gates’ removal if he doesn’t leave voluntarily. Hutchinson first called for Gates’ resignation after his arrest last year.

Gates said he doesn’t plan to resign and will seek re-election next year. He said Friday that the governor is entitled to his own opinion.

“The governor did not appoint me to my position,” Gates said. “The people of my district appointed me to this position.”

Under the state constitution, it takes a two-thirds vote to remove a House member from office.

Investigators said Gates had not filed a return since 2003. The statute of limitations for failing to file or pay returns is six years. Gates told police he had believed he had settled with the state for the years 2003 through 2007 for $30,000 and was making $1,500 monthly payments on the settlement, according to the arrest affidavit. Gates also said he was under the impression that the state Department of Finance and Administration completed returns on his behalf for 2007 through 2015 and had not filed returns since 2015.

Gates said in a statement later Friday that state taxes were still being withheld and sent to the state from his business income, along with his salaries as a quorum court member and legislator, during the time he’s accused of not paying taxes. He said the deal allowed him to avoid what would have been a painful trial for his family and to ensure he pays what is owed to the state.

Gates agreed Monday to pay at least $74,789 in taxes, penalties and interest owed the state for the years 2012 through 2014 and a hearing to determine the remaining amount for 2015 through 2017 will be held in December.

Gates was first elected to the House in 2014 representing parts of Garland and Saline counties. He was re-elected in November, months after his arrest.

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