Fresh Eyes at Arkansas Treasurer's Office (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 12:00 am  

Our deadline preceded Friday’s scheduled hearing by the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee on investment activity by state Treasurer Martha Shoffner’s office, so we can’t know any details of the findings or testimony.

But since there’s no penalty for guessing, we’re willing to make a few general predictions as to what legislators and taxpayers will ultimately conclude after months of slow-motion revelations:

The Treasurer’s Office has concentrated its business with favored brokers, making direct investments that are perfectly legal, technically archaic, wasteful of taxpayer dollars and, not coincidentally, supremely efficient at generating broker commissions. A handful of people will have made a very handsome living doing very little work.

Remember, we don’t know all the details. But we do know that specific investment decisions are always easier to judge in the perfection of hindsight. How rich could any of us be if we knew then what we know months or years later? So we find ourselves less concerned by the details of specific bond sales and purchases than by what looks like high finance being overseen by amateurs using taxpayer dollars.

That may be changing. Shoffner recently hired Hunter W. Johnson, former CFO of Warren Bank & Trust Co. and a finalist in Arkansas Business’ CFO of the Year competition in 2011, as investment manager. He’s 30-ish and this is his first foray into government. And while we’ve never bought into the idea that government should be run like a business — it’s not a business, it’s government — the idea of having fresh eyes looking at the way the Treasurer’s Office does business is mighty appealing.

In fact, it’s good to have a lot of eyes looking at just how the people’s money is managed.



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