Three vie for Arkansas auditor’s office

Candidates for the open Arkansas state auditor seat in the 2022 general election are (from left) state Treasurer Dennis Milligan, a Republican; Democrat Diamond Arnold-Johnson; and Libertarian Simeon Snow.
Candidates for the open Arkansas state auditor seat in the 2022 general election are (from left) state Treasurer Dennis Milligan, a Republican; Democrat Diamond Arnold-Johnson; and Libertarian Simeon Snow.

Democrat Diamond Arnold-Johnson, Republican Dennis Milligan and Libertarian Simeon Snow are vying to succeed state Auditor Andrea Lea in the Nov. 8 general election.

The state auditor serves as the general accountant and chief payroll officer for Arkansas. The auditor also oversees the state's unclaimed property program and serves on the Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System and Arkansas Teacher Retirement System boards.

The auditor also staffs the Independent Citizens Commission, which sets the salaries for elected state officials.

Early voting is underway for the Nov. 8 general election.

Arnold-Johnson, 32, is a master insurance advisor and QuickBooks ProAdvisor from Mabelvale, and has served as a health insurance advocate and a court-appointed advocate. Arnold-Johnson said her accounting background has prepared her for the role of State Auditor.

"I'm experienced in accounting, and I have handled a million and more as far as books go," she said.

Arnold-Johnson said she does not want Arkansas to end up like Mississippi, and said she will make sure state payments are made in a timely fashion. She has praised Lea, the current auditor, and said if elected she would build on the job Lea has done.

If elected, Arnold-Johnson said she would do more to promote the office's unclaimed property program, saying many Arkansans are not aware of the office's role. She said she would not favor combining the office with that of the state treasurer.

Arnold-Johnson has had numerous legal issues. On Friday, police arrested her for felony terroristic threatening and she was booked into a Pulaski County jail. During an interview the day prior about an outstanding warrant for her arrest, Arnold-Johnson said the case was an example of "malicious prosecution."

"They do not like the fact that I'm running for office," she said.

After her arrest Friday, the Democratic Party of Arkansas issued a statement distancing itself from the candidate.

"Everyone has the right to due process; however, our Party firmly believes people must be held accountable for any criminal behavior, especially candidates for public office," according to the statement from the party. "The Democratic Party of Arkansas did not recruit her to run for Auditor of State, and we cannot bar her from running for this position."

Milligan, Arnold-Johnson's Republican opponent, also issued a statement following the arrest calling for her to drop out.

It is not the candidate's first legal issue. In 2014 Arnold-Johnson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor carrying of a weapon and misdemeanor third-degree endangering the welfare of a minor. She was sentenced to 12 months of supervised probation by a Pulaski County Circuit Court judge.

In 2021, the Arkansas Insurance Department issued an order revoking her insurance license for failure to disclose her misdemeanor convictions and selling a health insurance policy to a person without their knowledge or consent. Arnold-Johnson said she disclosed her misdemeanor convictions.

Milligan, 65, is the current state treasurer and is term-limited. He said his two terms as a constitutional officer have prepared him to be the next auditor.

Milligan, of Benton, is the former circuit clerk for Saline County, a small businessman and former state chair of the Arkansas Republican Party.

He said he cleaned up the treasurer's office after the previous treasurer, Martha Shoffner, was convicted of extortion and bribery charges.

"I've had a passion for serving the state, and I have done so in some capacity for the last 25 years," Milligan said. "Due to my experience as the treasurer and working hand-in-hand with Auditor Lea the last seven years really makes me feel like I'm the most-qualified person on the ballot."

If elected, he said he would promote the state to help bring jobs to Arkansas and "protect the solvency" of the state's unclaimed property program. He said he would move the state to a direct deposit system rather than issue physical checks, which he said is "less efficient, less secure."

Milligan does not believe the state auditor's office should be merged with the treasurer's office.

While treasurer, Milligan has been accused of several violations of state ethics rules. In 2015 he agreed to pay a $1,000 fine for violating the state's nepotism law after he hired his cousin for a $63,000-a-year job. He also reimbursed the state for pay his cousin earned while on the job.

In 2016, Milligan agreed to pay a $400 fine to the Arkansas Ethics Commission and violated the state's campaign finance laws by failing to include some required information in his reports.

Snow is a 37-year-old tax specialist from Rector.

He is the owner of Snow's Tax and Financial and said he entered the race for auditor after encouragement from Libertarian Party of Arkansas officials. Snow has served on the Rector Downtown Central Board.

"I have the experience," Snow said. "I would say I would bring transparency to the office -- accountability, integrity."

He said his background has helped prepare him for the role and he wants to bring a "less government" philosophy to the office. That philosophy would include more promotion of the office's unclaimed property program and a diligent accounting of how the office uses its budget.

It also includes advocating for the merger of the state auditor's office with the treasurer's office.

"There are so many offices there in Little Rock that could either be done away with, consolidated, combined," Snow said. "That would save taxpayers a lot of money."

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