Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner Resigns Amid Charges She Took Cash

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, May. 21, 2013 5:21 pm  

Martha Shoffner was elected twice as Treasurer of Arkansas. (Photo by AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

LITTLE ROCK - Arkansas' state treasurer resigned Tuesday after being accused of taking at least $36,000 in cash - sometimes stashed in a pie box - from a broker who later came to manage a large share of the state's $3.3 billion investment portfolio.

Democrat Martha Shoffner held the office since 2007 and was re-elected in 2010. She was barred by term limits from seeking re-election next year.

"I am proud to have been elected by and to have served the people of the state of Arkansas and regret that I can no longer perform the duties and responsibilities owed to the public," Shoffner wrote in a letter to Gov. Mike Beebe. Shoffner's resignation was effective 5 p.m. Tuesday.

Shoffner's attorney provided a copy of the letter. Beebe's office did not immediately return a call late Tuesday.

She was under pressure from both Democrats and Republicans to step down after the FBI arrested her Saturday in a sting operation. She spent the weekend in Pulaski County Jail and made her initial court appearance Monday. She didn't enter a plea, but her attorney, Chuck Banks, said she would plead not guilty at the appropriate time.

Shoffner, 68, was released on her own recognizance but ordered to surrender her passport. A federal grand jury will decide whether to indict her. She's charged with attempt and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

The charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine. A next court date was not set.

"It would be very hard, in my opinion, for that office to properly function under her continued leadership," Beebe, a Democrat who was among those calling for Shoffner to resign, said Monday.

Beebe earlier Tuesday said he'd consider asking lawmakers to remove Shoffner if she didn't resign. The top Republican in the House urged Beebe to convene lawmakers to begin removing her.

Federal prosecutors allege Shoffner accepted $12,000 a year from a broker who would sometimes deliver cash in a pie box, with the pie included. They said the broker is cooperating with investigators.

An FBI affidavit filed in federal court alleges that a broker - unidentified in court documents - would roll up cash in $6,000 increments and have it delivered to Shoffner's office every six months. At least two of the payments were delivered in a pie box with a pie. The broker "recognized his/her bond business with the state grew because of the payments," the affidavit said.

The payments were made after Shoffner asked the broker for $1,000 a month to pay her rent in Little Rock, according to the affidavit. The document said the broker was granted immunity in exchange for his or her cooperation.

 

 

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