US Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Chris Thyer said Monday that allegations against state Treasurer Martha Shoffner are grave.
He spoke to reporters after Shoffner made her initial court appearance on charges she accepted money from a broker in return for investing state money with that broker.
Thyer said Shoffner was arrested at her home in Newport after the broker, who received confidential F-B-I informant status, recorded a transaction in which she accepted $6,000. Thyer said if the allegations are true, they will hurt the public's trust of its elected officials.
“This is not a happy day for me personally and frankly I don’t think it should be a happy day for anyone in this state if those allegations that we have set forth in the complaint turn out to be true,” Thyer said. “But, with that said, we all have a job to make sure that our elected officials and our public servants, elected or not, abide by the law and stand up for the law and when that trust is broken, punishment is due.”
He said the transaction was similar to others that occurred every six months for the past few years.
“At least two of those payments occurred at the state capitol, two of those at her residence in Newport and two of those at her residence here in Little Rock,” Thyer said.
Thyer said it was a tough decision to use the confidential informant, but authorities would have had a hard time making the case otherwise.
“At the core of this particular conspiracy as alleged in the affidavit there were two people, and if both of those two people remained silent, then we would not be here today," he said.
A legislative audit last year found that Shoffner’s investment practices cost the state over $400,000 in potential earnings.
Many Arkansas politicians and the Democratic Party of Arkansas have urged Shoffner, a Democrat, to resign due to the allegations, but she told reporters after her hearing that she won’t step down, and her lawyer also said she would plead innocent.
Governor Mike Beebe, also a Democrat, said shoffner should step down immediately.
“Everybody’s presumed innocent and I understand that, but there’s a difference between a public official and alleged acts that are contained in that [FBI] affidavit surrounding her official duties and it’d be very hard, in my opinion, for that office to properly function under her continued leadership, so I think she should resign, I think she should resign immediately,” Beebe said.
The Governor also questioned Shoffner's ability to manage the Treasurer's office while facing such charges.
"I was shocked by just how blatant the conduct was based on the allegations," Beebe said.
Beebe said he hasn't yet considered who he would choose to fill Shoffner's post should she decide to resign adding that he had no advance notice that she would be arrested.