Prompted by questions from the Arkansas Times, the state Department of Finance and Administration made a trip to the Governor’s Mansion the last week of December and found the nearly $70,000 worth of furnishings that had been part of a lawsuit in 1997.
Former Gov. Mike Huckabee had once claimed the furniture belonged to him, but later retracted that statement.
DFA’s inventory, provided the Times in November, included none of the furniture, purchased by decorator Georg Andersen and paid for by planter Boe Adams of Leachville. Janis Harrison, who provided the original list, said she believed it to be correct and inclusive of items in the mansion’s private rooms. The last on-site audit was in 2005.
DFA worked from a list drawn up in 1996 that was in the Times’ possession. Among the furnishings listed were a $2,256 armoire entertainment center, a $2,812 demilune chest for the master bedroom and a $1,005 loveseat for former Gov. Huckabee’s study, chairs, beds, draperies, tables, rugs, decorative items and more.
“We located virtually everything,” DFA Director Richard Weiss said last week, much of it in the back of the carriage barn on the mansion grounds. “I don’t know why we didn’t have it on our inventory. It shows bad bookkeeping. ... It’s been a very valuable exercise to us.”
Weiss said a new inventory would be drawn up and that “better instructions” on recording gifts made by private individuals would be provided the new first family and mansion administrator. “We’re making sure the Beebes move in with a clean record.”
Prior to the DFA visit, former first lady Janet Huckabee, in an e-mailed response to the Times about the furniture, said she could not explain why it was not included with other state property on the mansion list. “I can assure you I’ve left more in this house than all the rest of the families combined,” she said.
Huckabee furnished his office in the state Capitol with a gift from supporter Jennings Osborne. Though state law prohibits gifts of more than $100 to elected officials that are related to their work, no one ever challenged the governor on the gift, which he reported on his statement of financial interest in 1997.
Huckabee packed that furniture up and took it with him, leaving the office empty for Gov. Mike Beebe. DFA allowed Beebe to move the furnishings from his personal office at the Attorney General’s office to the Capitol, Weiss said. New AG Dustin McDaniel brought his own office furniture with him to the job.
Weiss also said the governor’s office was getting a new computer system, since the one used by the Huckabees was old and out-of-date. Weiss also said a new automatic signature machine for the governor’s correspondence will be bought; the one in the office now is said to date to the Rockefeller administration. “So do I,” noted Weiss, who has been in state government since 1970.