LITTLE ROCK — An Arkansas lawmaker was arrested Thursday on six felony charges after authorities said he failed to file income tax returns for 15 years and owes nearly $260,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest to the state.
Arkansas State Police said state Rep. Mickey Gates of Hot Springs surrendered to authorities on Thursday. He faces six counts of failure to pay or file a return. Gates, a Republican, was released from the Garland County jail on $1,500 bond. Gates is charged for not filing returns from 2012 through 2017, but State Police said finance officials said the lawmaker had not filed one since 2003. The statute of limitations for failing for file or pay returns is six years.
An attorney for Gates said he had been surprised by the criminal charges and had been cooperating with authorities in trying to pay the back taxes.
“We will continue to cooperate and hopefully have a resolution soon,” attorney Joe Church well said. Churchwell said he couldn’t speak to whether Gates would resign over the charges.
State Police began investigating Gates earlier this year over allegations that he hadn’t filed state tax returns. Arkansas finance officials told state Police they informed Gates he was going to be audited in 2011 and was notified the audit was completed in 2015.
Gates, 58, told state police in an interview earlier this month 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 referred to his tax situation numerous times throughout the interview as an ‘albatross around my neck,’” the affidavit said.
Gates is running for re-election and faces Democratic challenger Kevin Rogers in November. House Speaker Matthew Shepherd, a Republican, said Gates had been suspended from leadership positions and select committee assignments but stopped short of calling for the lawmaker’s resignation. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the charges against Gates serious and said they “should be dealt with in a timely and responsible way.”
“I have known Rep. Gates for many years, and I trust he will do the right thing to assure the public that his tax responsibilities are handled appropriately or step aside,” Hutchinson said.
Gates’ arrest follows a string of convictions of former lawmakers and lobbyists in bribery probes over the past year that have prompted the state Senate to overhaul its ethics rules and the state’s attorney general to form a unit to investigate public corruption. The Democratic Party called on Gates to step down.
“Representative Gates’s inability and refusal to follow the law displays not only an abuse of power, but also a failure to the people of his district,” said Rep. Michael John Gray, who chairs the state party. “The only acceptable action must be for Representative Gates to resign immediately.”