An explosive investigation report by the Arkansas Board of Election Commissioners has been forwarded to prosecutors, alleging serious political skulduggery by former Arkansas State Senator and county judge Hank Wilkins. According to findings, Wilkins secretly changed the locks to the Election Commission office THREE TIMES in the run up a school board election in the fall of 2017, preventing commissioners from accessing their offices and making adequate preperations for the vote.
Did Wilkins secretly lock elections commissioners out?
On May 7th the Jefferson County Attorney’s office received a investigative file alleging several Class A misdemeanors by then County Judge Hank Williams. According to the report, the locks were first changed on July 24th, preventing county elections officials from accessing their offices. The locks were changed again on August 24th, then for a third time on August 26th. On the final occasion, officials were unable to regain access to all of their offices until September 1st – with a planned school board election just over two weeks away.
Additionally, 2,000 envelopes were ruined by a water leak that occurred in the offices during the period when commissioners were locked out.
The state elections board determined that the incidents were a violation of Arkansas state law, which prohibits interfering in any manner with the officials lawfully conducting an election.
The original complaint that sparked the investigation came from Jefferson County Republican Party Committee Chairman Peter Smykla. According to the complaint, security footage from at least one occasion shows Wilkins secretly changed the locks along with his chief of staff, Lloyd Franklin Jr., and a locksmith. The report also names former State Representative Efrem Elliott as being involved.
Speaking of Wilkins to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Jefferson County Elections Commissioner Stu Soffer said, “The man had no regard for the law.”
Hank Wilkins’ other much bigger legal problems
Wilkins’ political career came to a crashing halt in March when he was named in a federal bribery trial against a Missouri lobbyist, Milton Russell “Rusty” Cranford. According to a US Attorney, Wilkins admitted in an FBI interview to taking bribes from Cranford, which were disguised as contributions to his church.
Wilkins was at the time of the revelation still serving as Jefferson County Judge, but resigned on the next working day.
On April 30th, in US Federal Court, Hank Wilkins pleaded guilty to conspiring to accept bribes of $80,000 during his time in the Arkansas Senate, between 1999-2015.
The date for sentencing has not been set, but Wilkins faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The Class A misdemeanor charges being considered against Wilkins by the Jefferson County prosecutor could net him up to another year in prison and $2,500 in fines.
Still, things could be worse for Wilkins. The Arkansas Elections board failed to uphold one of the charges made in the complaint against him – that names on absentee ballots had been changed. They found that there had been administrative errors only that had been corrected before ballots were sent to voters.