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Legislative committee votes to hold Hoxie report


LITTLE ROCK — A legislative committee on Thursday has asked for more answers before approving an audit for the city of Hoxie.

The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee’s committee on Counties and Municipalities met at the state Capitol to discuss the 2022 audit as both sides on the issue continue a back and forth battle.

The 2022 audit, which was released in March, alleged noncompliance with state law and accepted accounting practices in the Mayor’s office. Specifically, the audit questioned issues with a 2021 loan made through the city’s Re-Use Stimulus Fund.

“On December 14, 2021, the City Council approved a $110,000 loan to a company owned, in part, by the City Attorney. The loaned funds originated from the City’s Re-Use Job Stimulus Fund, which, according to the City’s Re-Use Plan (Plan) should be used to revitalize and expand business and industrial employment in the city,” the audit noted. “Subsequently, the company purchased land, partially owned by the Mayor, and built storage within in the City. The Hoxie Administration Board of Directors (Board) reviewed the company’s loan request but did not require submission of a loan application, in noncompliance with Plan policy. City officials indicated that Board approval of Re-Use loans without an application was a regular practice.”

During the meeting Thursday in Little Rock, the committee had originally discussed approving the audit, with auditors saying the findings did not rise to the level of being sent to the prosecuting attorney for review. However, several lawmakers including Sen. Kim Hammer (R-Benton) and Sen. Fred

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Love (D-Mabelvale) asked for the delay to give lawmakers, committee staff and residents additional time to look over and review the audit.

Legislative auditor Tim Jones told The Sun on Friday that it appeared that the city’s policy on the Re-Use funds, with the process going from the Re-Use committee to the council for approval, was the same for everyone, but it appeared that the practice involving the use of the funds was not.

Jones also said while the audit was not referred to the prosecuting attorey’s office, the prosecuting attorney’s office was made aware of the situation.

In discussing the issue, Sen.

Hammer told several Hoxie residents who attended the hearing that they could request the paperwork on the issue to find out more about the situation. The information from the paperwork could provide more details for the committee to look into, Sen.

Hammer said.

Answering a question from Sen. Love, Hoxie council member Darrell Pickney, who atteded the committee meeting, said he believed the council would have never approved the loan if they had known more, while Coty Powers told the committee he believed the situation was a “downright deception” by city leaders.

Pickney said he was pleased with the work done by committee members on the issue, but not as much as the system. He also said he sent an FOI request to state legislative auditors Friday, asking for specific information on the audit including what city officials sent as a response.

On Friday, Hoxie Mayor Dennis Coggins said he and others have followed the law and are not hiding anything, saying the issue in question, over the Re-Use plan, is not covered by federal law. He said he has received word that the federal government got out of the Re-Use business in 1972, leaving the issue to cities.

“I have no comment because we have done nothing wrong,” Coggins said.

Coggins said he also places the blame with Pickney, calling him a “radical council member,” saying the council member has “cost us $11,000 for FOIA and wants to break the city.”

Coggins said he also hopes that the Arkansas State Police comes in and investigates the situation. On Thursday, the committee also requested for Coggins and Hall to appear at the July meeting to discuss the audit.

For Pickney, he said he believes it is a matter of accuracy and ethics in government.

“I am eager to see what Legislative Audit sends in,” Pick-

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ney said.

The committee is set to meet again on the Hoxie issue on July 11 at 1:30 p.m. at the state Capitol.


Prosecutor says ATF agent justified in fatal shooting of Little Rock airport director

LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas prosecutor on Friday said a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent was justified when he fatally shot the Little Rock airport director during a raid at his house in March.

Pulaski County Prosecutor Will Jones said in a letter to ATF that no charges in the shooting would be filed after reviewing the Arkansas State Police investigation of the shooting of Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport Executive Director Bryan Malinowski.

Malinowski died days after he was shot when ATF agents were were executing a warrant March 19 at his home in Little Rock. The ATF said agents returned fire after Malinowski shot at the agents, striking and injuring one of them.

An affidavit released after the shooting said Malinowski bought over 150 guns between May 2021 and February 2024 and that he resold many without a dealer's license.

In his letter, Jones said the agents had properly identified themselves with police running lights and sirens outdoors before they entered and announced their presence at the front door.

Jones wrote that during the raid one of the agents saw another agent fall to the ground, heard a gunshot and saw Malinowski holding a gun. 'Given the totality of the circumstances, Agent 2 had a reasonable belief that deadly force was necessary to defend himself and Agent 1,' Jones wrote.

'Therefore, the use of deadly force by Agent 2 was in accordance with Arkansas law and was justified.'

ATF spokesperson Kristina Mastropasqua called the state's investigation into the shooting 'prompt, professional and independent' and said it's now under internal review by the agency.

The Malinowski family has called the ATF's tactics in the raid 'completely unnecessary' and has complained about a lack of details from the ATF. An attorney for Malinowski's family has said he was a gun collector and wasn't aware he was under investigation for his reselling firearms at gun shows.

Bud Cummins, the family's attorney, on Friday said questions about the raid were 'far from over' despite Jones' decision. Cummins noted that, according to Jones' letter, ATF agents only waited 28 seconds after knocking on the Malinowski's door before they began to ram it.

'The state's investigation didn't attempt to make independent judgments about whether ATF violated the law when they broke down Mr. and Mrs. Malinowski's front door,' Cummins said in a statement. 'But that question should be a matter of grave concern for the rest of us.'

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