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Lawmakers subpoena state treasurer over critical audit

<p>State Rep. Tim Summers, R-Bentonville, (right) and Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, answer questions from reporters Friday after the legislative committee they chair subpoenaed state Treasurer Martha Shoffner to appear. Shoffner did not appear before the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee on Friday to answer questions about a state audit critical of her office.</p>

State Rep. Tim Summers, R-Bentonville, (right) and Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, answer questions from reporters Friday after the legislative committee they chair subpoenaed state Treasurer Martha Shoffner to appear. Shoffner did not appear before the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee on Friday to answer questions about a state audit critical of her office.

LITTLE ROCK — State Treasurer Martha Shoffner failed to appear before a legislative committee Friday to answer questions about a state audit critical of her office, even after the panel issued a subpoena to compel her to attend.

Lawmakers scheduled another meeting for Monday and readied a second subpoena for Shoffner. A lawyer for the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee said if the state treasurer does not attend, the panel could ask a judge to cite her for contempt.

A state police spokesman said later that a trooper served Shoffner with a subpoena Friday afternoon in Newport, and her office issued a statement saying she would appear before the committee Monday.

The subpoenas are believed to be the first ever issued by Arkansas legislators for a constitutional officer.

“We expect people to be forthcoming and work with us, and we’ve got some questions, some issues, and we think it’s pertinent that our treasurer be here to address those issues,” said Rep. Tim Summers, R-Bentonville, co-chairman of the panel.

The audit found that Shoffner’s office sold bonds from its investment portfolio to selected bond brokers before the bonds reached maturity and later purchased similar bonds from the same investment brokers, resulting in a net loss of $58,172.

Auditors also said the treasurer’s office did not record the loss separately from interest income, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.

The committee convened at 9 a.m. and announced plans to subpoena Shoffner. Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, co-chairman of the committee, said he called Shoffner just before the meeting began because she was not in the committee room.

“She said she had a previous engagement outside the office,” Pritchard said. “I told her that we really needed her here and that we could delay the meeting until later in the day and she indicated she wouldn’t be available then.”

Pritchard said that when he reminded Shoffner that the panel had subpoena powers, she replied, “Well then I guess you are going to have to subpoena me.”

“So what we did was issue the subpoena,” he said.

The committee recessed about 10 a.m. and lawmakers were told the subpoena had been issued asking Shoffner to appear at 11 a.m.. After Shoffner failed to appear, Summers said the panel would reconvene at 1 p.m. to give Shoffner additional time.

After Shoffner failed to appear for the afternoon session, Summers said the committee would meet again at 2 p.m. Monday and that Shoffner would again be subpoenaed to attend.

Members of the state treasurer’s staff attended Friday’s meeting but did not speak.

A 2011 audit found that the treasurer’s office sold bonds to brokers before they were called or reached their maturity dates, purchased similar bonds from the same brokers, and then reported the sell/purchase activity.

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