LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas’ governor on Wednesday called on a state lawmaker and fellow Republican accused of not filing an income tax return for 15 years to resign.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said state Rep. Mickey Gates should also drop his bid for re-election after he was arrested on six felony counts of failing to file or pay an income tax return. Gates was arrested last month after authorities said he owed Arkansas nearly $260,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest. Hutchinson, who had stopped short of calling for Gates’ resignation following the arrest, said he spoke to Gates 10 days ago and told him to step down.
“It was important to give him time to hear from his colleagues on this matter, and it was my hope that he would make the decision to resign on his own,” Hutchinson said in a statement released by his office. “That has not happened, and it’s important for me to make it clear to the public that my opinion is that he should indeed resign. He is entitled to defend himself, but it should be done without the mantle of public responsibility.”
Other Republicans, including the state attorney general, previously called for Gates to quit. The chairman of the state Democratic Party and Democrat Jared Henderson, Hutchinson’s opponent in the November election, have also called for Gates’ resignation.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette first reported on Hutchinson’s comments Wednesday. Gates did not immediately reply to a phone message seeking comment.
Gates is charged for not filing returns from 2012 through 2017, but according to the State Police, finance officials said he hadn’t filed one since 2003. The statute of limitations for failing for file or pay returns is six years. A plea hearing and arraignment in his case has been scheduled for October 2. Gates’ attorney said the lawmaker plans to plea not guilty, and was not aware of any plans by Gates to resign.
“We have a valid defense which we will demonstrate in court and in a system of law where someone is innocent unless and until he is proven guilty, it is wrong and inappropriate to require someone to resign an office or job merely because he has been charged,” attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said.
Gates, who is running against Democrat Kevin Rogers, was suspended from leadership positions and select committee assignments after he was arrested.