Beebe close to naming new state treasurer to replace Shoffner


LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe said Wednesday he has met with possible replacements for former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who resigned Tuesday amid an federal extortion charge, and will make an appointment in the coming days.

“We’re going to act quickly, within the next several days, but we’re going to be deliberate in 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.

Shoffner faced tough scrutiny and allegations of mismanagement from lawmakers for her handling of transactions in the treasurer’s office aside from the criminal probe that ultimately led to her resignation. Beebe said Wednesday her replacement should be a “good manager, honest, apolitical, understand money and some of the duties.”

The new treasurer will face some challenges, he said.

“I don’t know the internal hurdles that they will face, that’s one of the reasons you want somebody smart and honest, so they can objectively make that analysis,” he said. “To my knowledge, right now I don’t know of any internal hurdles, other than what has been reported in the press, that would give rise to anything more extraordinary than what we already know.”

The criminal complaint filed by the FBI on Monday indicated that a current employee in the treasurer’s office was working with the FBI’s investigation of Shoffner.

The governor also said the new treasurer would have to review transactions made by the treasurer’s office.

“I would expect they would do precisely that,” he told reporters.

Shoffner, 68, is accused of taking at least $36,000 in kickbacks, delivered covertly in a pie box, for directing the bulk of bond transactions made by her office to a single broker, according to federal authorities. After a hearing in federal court Monday, she was released on her own recognizance but ordered to surrender her passport. A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict her.

She sent her resignation letter to the governor Tuesday.

Shoffner became the first state constitutional officer to resign from office under pressure since former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker stepped down in July 1996 following his conviction on federal charges in the Whitewater investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s business dealings in Arkansas.

The two-term state treasurer had been under FBI investigation for more than a year because of financial dealings in her office before agents arrested her at her home Saturday in Newport after an informant delivered a cash payment to her in a pie box.

After Monday’s appearance in federal court, Beebe, along with other Democrats and Republicans, called for Shoffner’s resignation. On Tuesday, both the Republican and Democratic House leaders called for her to resign and for the governor to call a special legislative session to remove her from office if she refused.