Housing Woes Plagued Cash-Strapped Martha Shoffner

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jun. 3, 2013 12:00 am  

Unnamed in the official criminal complaint, mulitple sources point to Steve Stephens as being a part of the bondsmen team who did the most business with former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner.

Official corruption, especially the kind that includes blatant bribes, is generally associated with a desire for personal enrichment.

But in the case of Martha Shoffner — who resigned as state treasurer on May 21, the day after she was charged with extortion — the payoffs were small and, according to the FBI, driven primarily by her desire to maintain a residence near her job at the state Capitol while hanging onto her house back home in Newport.

Sources who spoke to Arkansas Business on condition of anonymity suggested that taking office in 2007 as treasurer, one of the lesser constitutional offices with an annual salary of $54,304.80, was not only the pinnacle of Shoffner’s political career but the best-paying job she’d ever had.

But it apparently wasn’t enough to maintain the 4,500-SF house she and her sister, Ida, had bought from the heirs of Dr. T.E. Williams for $90,000 in October 2001 and to also rent a place in Little Rock. Shoffner bought out her sister’s interest in the property for $45,000 in March 2004.

According to sources in the Treasurer’s Office, Shoffner was known to make envious comments about the fact that more than a dozen of her staffers and the bond dealers her office dealt with were being paid more than she was.

After the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette produced an extensive report on the proliferation of state-owned vehicles, Shoffner defended her tax-free use of a 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe, famously contrasting that single perk with the governor’s transportation by a “manservant” — actually a State Police security detail.

(Shoffner sang a different tune about political perks during her unsuccessful 1994 campaign for a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives. “I will evaluate state spending and work to reduce or eliminate the benefits and fringe benefits of elected officials and other bureaucrats,” she said.)

The financial venting stopped after she moved into a rented condo in the Rainwater Flats project at 515 E. Capitol Ave. in downtown Little Rock during 2011. The 1,300-SF condo, valued at $219,000 in 2005, enjoyed gated security parking and other upscale amenities.

Prior to the condo move, Shoffner enjoyed a utilities-only arrangement at 1021 W. Second St. in downtown Little Rock, courtesy of an accommodating landlord, Texas lawyer Tim Herron, who also owned the Rainwater Flats condo.

But in between these two addresses, Shoffner was set homeless in Little Rock. Her staff even tried to help her find an affordable place for her to live.

For several months, Shoffner made do staying with friends, house-sitting in Little Rock and commuting from Newport until her 2011 move to the Rainwater Flats condo, which she paid about $800 a month to rent.

The upgrade in her job-related living arrangements dovetailed with semiannual cash payments of $6,000 cash from “Confidential Human Source 1,” according to the criminal complaint.



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