Former forestry finance chief Robert Araiza retires | Arkansas Blog

Former forestry finance chief Robert Araiza retires



RETIRED: Robert Araiza
  • RETIRED: Robert Araiza
Robert Araiza, the financial officer who was in the middle of the controversy over financial shortfalls at the Arkansas Forestry Commission, apparently has taken state retirement. It appears he left under pressure from the governor's office.

He had left Forestry in October as the controversy began simmering and took a job as chief financial manager at the Arkansas Career Education Department's Rehabilitation Services Division. He retired this week after 27 years with the state, a source of mine said. I'm having trouble getting comments from the agency and the governor's office, but a person who answered the phone in Araiza's former office said he'd retired and she had no idea how to reach him.

UPDATE: A spokesman for Career Education said:

Mr. Araiza submitted his letter of retirement effective today, March 9. His letter of retirement was accepted by the agency. Any further comment will have to come from Mr. Araiza.

John Shannon earlier resigned under pressure as head of Forestry. Shannon had said he'd relied on advice from Araiza in borrowing from federal funds to meet agency bills, transfers that were improper. A state audit was critical of Forestry practices. Araiza didn't endear himself to the Beebe administration by blaming the governor's office for putting off a discussion of the agency's need for more money because of coming 2010 elections. You really had to wonder how welcome Araiza would be when headlines appeared late in 2011 about Araiza's testimony to the legislature: "Ex-Forestry finance chief suggests Beebe ordered budget woes kept quiet." He said he'd warned Shannon for four years about money problems.

“The more I brought it to their attention, the more it fell on deaf ears,” Araiza said at the time.

UPDATE II: I asked for a comment from the governor's office. Spokesman Matt DeCample replied:

After the Legislative Audit report was released, Governor Beebe met with [Career Education] Director [Bill] Walker and shared the audit results with him. Beebe advised Walker that based on the audit, it would probably be best to not have Mr. Araiza handling fiscal matters at the agency, and to move him to another position if he was going to remain at Career Education.

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