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State land commissioner justifies $28,777 boat purchase; opponent says tax dollars wasted

The state land commissioner is accused of wasting tax dollars after buying a boat for the office.

The state land commissioner is accused of wasting tax dollars after buying a boat for his office.

Republican John Thurston, who’s also running for secretary of state, told KATV it was a need and not a waste of tax dollars. His Democratic opponent, Susan Inman, said it was not necessary and he’s not the candidate Arkansans want to elect.

Earlier this week, the blog Blue Hog Report revealed that Thurston had spent nearly $30,000 on a boat and equipment. The finding led Inman to hold a press conference.

"Not only did Mr. Thurston buy this fancy, shmancy, boat that many Arkansans would love to have themselves that can't afford it, he went on a shopping spree and bought clothes to go along with it,” said Inman.

Inman added that Thurston should have to repay the taxpayer money he spent.

Thurston said his office's waterways division needed the boat and he wanted to lift the burden placed on other state agencies.

“Early on in my term, we had to call Game and Fish and they had to literally meet us -- in this one particular incident, it was at the Ouachita River, south Arkansas," Thurston said. "And so we were tying up another agency and pulling their man hours that was my responsibility."

Thurston continued: "I didn't want to burden another agency or office with the responsibility for me doing my job. So that's something that Susan may not totally get about a constitutional office. I don't make the rules, I don't pass the laws. But I do carry out the laws."

Blue Hog Report blogger Matt Campbell told KATV that he doesn't have evidence of Thurston buying the boat for personal use, but he doesn't buy Thurston's explanation for the purchase.

"When you compare the land commissioner's budget to, say, the secretary of state's budget -- which are quarters of magnitude greater, and they have a lot more cars and a lot more ability to purchase other vehicles and that sort of equipment,” said Campbell. “When you're making a questionable decision like $30,000 or more on a boat that wasn't needed, it's a little risky to put you in a spot where you've got a lot more budget and a lot more ability to buy more boats or buy unnecessary cars."

Thurston said that he's been audited seven times and no problems have been found. He said this is typical Washington politics and that his opponent continues to show her ignorance when it comes to constitutional offices.

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