by Max Brantley
Gov. Mike Beebe today announced that he'd appointed Charles Robinson, retired director of legislative audit, to complete the term of State Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who resigned after being charged with a federal crime for taking payments from a securities salesman to whom she'd directed a disproportionate share of her office's state investments.
Robinson will serve through 2014 and cannot run for the position. As treasurer, he also holds an ex officio position on the board of the giant teacher retirement system. Shoffner created more controversy on account of campaign contributions she received from New York sources who did business with the system.
Robinson spoke carefully at today's news conference, David Ramsey reports:
"What has happened has happened," he said. He said it was premature to talk about any changes in staff or future policy regards bond investments. Shoffner has been faulted for a change in office policy that allowed securities brokers to trade bonds. Auditors have opined that premature liquidations cost the state money on account of subsequent changes in bond prices, though the investment house that changed bond positions has disputed the analysis. Trading is, at least, riskier than buying and holding. Robinson said he considered himself a political independent and had not contributed to a politician since his retirement.
Beebe said Robinson was one of his top two picks for the job. He didn't identify the other. He commented on the appointment: "You establish that [public] trust with the person in charge...don't think it takes a lot of specific changes [in terms of policy re: oversight of office]."
Robinson said he'd prefer to be unpaid in the position, though legal research is underway on whether it is permissible legally. The Department of Finance and Administration is reviewing the question.
Republican Dennis Milligan, former GOP party chair and the man who famously said the U.S. needed another 9/11 to fully understand the terrorism threat, has announced repeatedly for the office, including again today to get attention with the announcement by Beebe. (CORRECTION: The redundant announcement today was coincidental. He'd announced his intention to announce again on this date a while back.) Milligan was endorsed last week by Branson nightclub troupers Tony Orlando and Yakoff Smirnoff, though Branson's ties with Arkansas securities investments would seem tenuous at best. Several others, both Democrat and Republican, are considering the race.
Robinson, 66, a Harrison native, was director of state audit from 1979 until his retirement July 31, 2007.
COMMENT: Appointment of a professional with a sterling reputation raises again the long overlooked idea to end constitutional status for the treasurer's and auditor's office (and perhaps some others). Make them professional, not political, jobs.
The official governor's release follows (and, after that, a statement from the Democratic Party):
Governor Mike Beebe has named Charles Robinson of North Little Rock as Arkansas State Treasurer. Robinson will serve the remaining 19 months of a term left vacant by the resignation of Martha Shoffner.
"Charlie's name is synonymous with integrity in Arkansas government," Beebe said. "His long tenure of steady leadership is a big reason the Division of Legislative Audit has the sterling reputation it maintains today. I have no doubt that he will bring those same virtues to his tenure as Treasurer."
Robinson, 66, worked for 34 years in the Division of Legislative Audit, serving 28 years as the Legislative Auditor before retiring in 2007.
A native of Harrison, Robinson received his accounting degree from Arkansas Tech University and his MBA from the University of Arkansas. He has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
Robinson will serve as Treasurer until January of 2015. He will be sworn in at 1:00 Wednesday afternoon in the Arkansas Supreme Court chamber, and is not eligible to run for election as Treasurer.
Democratic Party release
Candace Martin, spokesperson of the Democratic Party of Arkansas, released the following statement after Governor Beebe’s appointment to the Treasurer’s Office:
“The most important priority for Arkansas Democrats is to restore the public trust in the Treasurer’s Office, and Governor Beebe’s appointment accomplished that goal. In 2014, we look forward to electing an Arkansas Democrat who will bring the same sense of fiscal responsibility to the Treasurer’s office as Governor Beebe has brought to the entire state of Arkansas.”