LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe on Wednesday named Charles Robinson, former head of the state Division of Legislative Audit, to fill out the term of former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who resigned May 21 amid allegations she steered state business to a broker, then took cash payments from him.
Beebe introduced Robinson at a morning news conference in the Governor’s Conference Room at the state Capitol. The new state treasurer was officially sworn in during an afternoon ceremony in the Arkansas Supreme Court Chamber. He is not eligible to run for the office when the term ends in January 2015.
Robinson said he planned to meet with every employee of the treasurer’s office Wednesday and would make sure the office is run "effectively and efficiently" until a new treasurer is elected and sworn in.
Beebe said Robinson "is somebody who fits everything I was asking for in terms of a manager, in terms of somebody who has a reputation for honesty and integrity, somebody who is relatively apolitical … somebody who has the capability of bringing folks together, healing, working with folks."
The governor said his office called Robinson about taking the job.
"He didn’t ask for the job, he didn’t call, he didn’t ask anybody to call," Beebe said. "We went out and picked him, and frankly I’m very grateful that he has accepted this because he wasn’t looking for it."
Robinson, 66, worked in the Division of Legislative Audit for 34 years, serving 28 years as the Legislative Auditor before retiring in August 2007. He lives in North Little Rock.
He told reporters that he gave most of his suits and other work cloths away after he retired, thinking he would never work again.
"I saved one suit, in case I had to have it for certain purposes," he said, adding he’s going to have to get to the store and buy some new cloths.
"All that said, I’m really looking forward to working with state and local governments, private entities, financial people and especially, I look forward to working with people in the state treasurer’s office," he said. "I feel that by us working together that in a relatively short period of time we will be able to insure all the people in Arkansas that their treasurer’s office is being run efficiently and effectively, and I know that’s what all citizens in this great state want and I know it’s what they deserve."
Robinson, who already receives a state retirement pension, also told reporters he does not want to be paid the state treasurer’s $54,000-a-year salary. Beebe said his office is working with the state Department of Finance and Administration to see if his wish can be accommodated.
Robinson said he planned to meet individually with employees in the treasurer’s office Wednesday and to begin the process of understanding the office’s financial practices, including how it buys, sells and invests bonds.
"I know that’s a very important issue and it needs to be addressed," he said. "Together with the treasurer’s staff we will address it and I think you will be satisfied with the result."
He said it was premature to speculate on whether he would make any personnel changes, or changes in how the office invests.
A native of Harrison, Robinson received an accounting degree from Arkansas Tech University and an 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.
Shoffner resigned in a letter to Beebe on May 21, a day after federal extortion allegations were revealed at a court hearing. The two-term state treasurer had been under FBI investigation for more than a year as a result of suspect financial dealings in her office. She was arrested her at her home May 18 in Newport after an informant delivered $6,000 in cash to her in a pie box.
Shoffner, 68, is accused of taking at least $36,000 in kickbacks while directing the bulk of state bond transactions to one broker, according to federal authorities. After the hearing on May 20, she was released on her own recognizance but ordered to surrender her passport.
The criminal complaint filed by the FBI indicated that a current employee in the treasurer’s office was working with the FBI’s investigation of Shoffner.
In December, the Legislative Joint Audit Committee requested a criminal investigation into the way Shoffner’s office sold bonds, including her decision to sell bonds before they matured. A state audit report of Shoffner’s dealings was turned over to the Pulaski County prosecutor. Prosecutor Larry Jegley said last week his office is not investigating Shoffner.
The audit found that eight of 30 bond transactions between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 17, 2012, were made to St. Bernard Financial Services of Russellville. Each of those transactions was made before the bonds matured, resulting in an economic loss of $783,835.
Several of the other 22 transactions made money, lowering the overall economic loss on the bond sales to $434,249 during the time period.
The bond sales by St. Bernard Financial were made by one broker, Steele Stephens.
Shoffner told the legislative panel in December that she and Stephens’ father, Steve Stephens of Newport, have been friends for years. She previously told the committee that she did not know Steele Stephens was his son until after she and Steele Stephens met at the state Capitol to discuss state investment opportunities.
Shoffner claimed said she never received any personal financial benefits from Russellville-based St. Bernard or any other firm with which her office had dealings. She did say the father of the broker had donated to her campaign and helped organize a campaign fundraiser on her behalf.
Steele Stephens resigned from St. Bernard Financial Services last week.
Shoffner became the first state constitutional officer to resign from office under pressure since former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker stepped down in July 1996 following his conviction on federal charges in the Whitewater investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s business dealings in Arkansas.