VOL. 128 | NO. 101 | Thursday, May 23, 2013
Beebe: Working Quickly to Pick New Arkansas Treasurer
ANDREW DeMILLO | Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday he hopes to name a replacement in the next several days for the state treasurer, who resigned over accusations she took cash bribes from a bond broker.
Beebe said he already has spoken with some candidates about filling the unexpired term of Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who resigned on Tuesday. Shoffner, a Democrat, stepped down amid federal charges that she accepted at least $36,000 in cash in exchange for steering state business to a bond broker.
"We're going to act quickly, within the next several days, but we're going to be deliberate about the process to the point that even though we're acting expeditiously it's not going to be hastily," Beebe told reporters at the state Capitol.
The governor would not say whom he's considering for the post.
"There are several that would meet the criteria that I'm looking for, and that's a good manager, honest, relatively apolitical, understanding of money and some of the duties," Beebe said.
Whoever Beebe names will serve the remainder of Shoffner's term, which ends in January 2015, but is barred from running for the post next year. Shoffner, a former state representative, was re-elected in 2010.
Shoffner was under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step down after the FBI arrested her Saturday in a sting operation. She spent the weekend in Pulaski County Jail and made her initial court appearance Monday. She didn't enter a plea, but her attorney has said she'll plead not guilty at the appropriate time.
An FBI affidavit filed in federal court alleges that a broker – unidentified in court documents – would roll up cash in $6,000 increments and have it delivered to Shoffner's office every six months. At least two of the payments were delivered in a pie box with a pie. The broker "recognized his/her bond business with the state grew because of the payments," the affidavit said.
Shoffner, 68, was released on her own recognizance but ordered to surrender her passport. A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict her. She's charged with attempt and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right under the Hobbs Act, a federal law used to prosecute public officials accused of taking bribes.
The charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. A next court date was not set.
House Speaker Davy Carter said one of the top jobs for Beebe's choice will be to restore confidence in an office rattled by the federal charges and audits that have questioned Shoffner's investment practices.
"The goal is to turn the office over to the next elected treasurer in good order," Carter, R-Cabot. "That's going to take a lot of hard work. Frankly there's going to be a lot of attention on it."
Carter said he thinks the typically low-profile race for treasurer next year will likely get more scrutiny because of Shoffner's resignation and the accusations. Saline County Clerk Dennis Milligan has said he plans on seeking the Republican nomination, and GOP state Rep. Duncan Baird said he's considering running. No Democrats have announced a bid.
Senate President Michael Lamoureux said he doesn't have any specific recommendations for Beebe, just that the governor find someone who would focus on "just doing the job and not being a subject of news."
"There's nothing exciting about being the treasurer, if you just go about your business," said Lamoureux, R-Russellville.
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