by Max Brantley
Debbie Rogers, chief deputy state treasurer, said Treasurer Martha Shoffner will not be at work today, but otherwise it was "business as usual" at the treasurer's office. Shoffner was arrested Saturday and charged Monday with taking kickbacks from a securities salesman who handled state bond business.
Rogers said she didn't know about Shoffner's work plans beyond today. She said Shoffner had spoken briefly with her today and said that she'd been advised not to comment and to refer questions to her attorney, Chuck Banks.
There's been a bipartisan call for Shoffner's resignation. Republicans also have begun urging Gov. Mike Beebe to begin proceedings to remove Shoffner from office. The Constitution provides for impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate as one means of removing the state treasurer. Shoffner's term in the $53,000-a-year job runs through 2014. There's also a provision for removal by "address," a hazily written provision that hasn't been used since the Constitution was written in 1874. It might mean that the governor could remove Shoffner on a two-thirds vote of House and Senate.
Shoffner should resign for multiple reasons, beginning with the sworn affidavit that she'd admitted to FBI agents that she'd wrongly accepted money from the bond dealer. She may yet have a legal defense on the charge, but it's politically sufficient evidence that she should no longer be conducting state investment business.
I think Gov. Mike Beebe is right to give the decision a bit more time before putting removal machinery in play. Said his spokesman Matt DeCample about impeachment and address:
Those are always options, but before going to the extent and taxpayer expense of calling in the Legislature, he wants to give the resignation option some time. There is also continuing study of how exactly those proceeding would occur. We haven’t found record of the “by address” provision being used before.
I think the last Arkansas state officeholder to be removed from office was Sen. Guy "Mutt" Jones, expelled after a Senate trial in 1974 after a federal tax conviction.