LITTLE ROCK — Gov. Mike Beebe said Tuesday he would consider calling legislators into special session to remove embattled state Treasurer Martha Shoffner from office but wants to give her a chance to step down on her own.
After Shoffner’s appearance in federal court Monday on extortion charges, Beebe said she should resign immediately. On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, asked the governor to call a special session to remove Shoffner from office.
Later Tuesday, Beebe said "of course" he would consider calling a special session.
"Let’s see what happens first," he said. "If she’ll go ahead and resign, obviously that saves taxpayers a lot of money and that’s the preferred route. We’ll make a decision concerning those other issues if that doesn’t occur."
The governor said he had not set a time limit, "but I’ve said it needs to be immediate, which means very, very quickly."
Shoffner, 68, was arrested Saturday by FBI agents at her Newport home. Federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Monday accusing her of extortion. After a hearing in federal court Monday, she was released on her own recognizance but ordered to surrender her passport. A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict her.
Shoffner is accused of taking at least $36,000 in kickbacks, delivered covertly in a pie box, for directing the bulk of bond transactions made by her office to a single broker, according to federal authorities.
Tuesday, Westerman called for Shoffner’s removal from office under Article 15, Section 3 of the Arkansas Constitution. Article 15 allows the Legislature, with a two-thirds vote of both chambers, to remove the state treasurer from office.
"Given the extreme lack of regard she has shown towards the law and, more importantly, the hard-working Arkansas taxpayers whose money she is responsible for, her continued service in the state treasurer’s office is now untenable," Westerman said in a prepared statement.
Shoffner, a Democrat, said Monday as she was leaving the federal court house that she had no plans to resign "at this time." Her attorney, Chuck Banks, said later that he planned to discuss with her her future as state treasurer.
Tuesday, Banks said in an e-mail to the Arkansas News Bureau that he had "nothing else to talk about that wasn’t covered (Monday).
Debbie Rogers, chief deputy of the treasurer’s office, said Tuesday morning that she talked to Shoffner by phone and was told the treasurer would not be in the office Tuesday. Rogers said she was also instructed to refer any questions to Shoffner’s attorney.
Leaders of both major political parties have called for Shoffner’s resignation, as have a number of Shoffner’s fellow Democratic officials.
Reporter John Lyon contributed to this report.