Lawmakers to Hear More in Abshure, Stephens Conflict

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 12:00 am  

Members of the committee, starting with Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, seemed to reject the idea that Abshure, a political appointee, could decide that penalties could be paid to an outside organization rather than being collected into the state treasury. And Stephens’ complaint points out that state securities law says that “all fines … or moneys collected in lieu of a fine … shall be deposited as special revenues into the State Treasury” and credited to a special fund for investor education.

But Abshure said the donations to the NASAA were never collected by the state.

“A donation is just like ordering restitution,” Abshure said. “It was never the state’s money.”

The Securities Act, he said, gives him broad latitude to craft settlements, authority he used in reaching the settlements with Crews and Stephens.

Westerman asked Abshure whether it was a conflict of interest for him to order contributions to the NASAA.

“No,” Abshure said.

“You’d have to agree that there’s a perceived conflict of interest,” Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said. Abshure did not directly respond.

But he did respond when Sen. Larry Teague, D-Nashville, told him that he wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Crews & Associates’ $150,000 didn’t flow to the benefit of the taxpayers of Arkansas. Teague then instructed Abshure to “stop it until some of us get comfortable with it.”

“I think we can do that,” Abshure answered.

In answer to a question, Abshure confirmed that he had discussed the Stephens complaint with Gov. Mike Beebe. Beebe’s response, Abshure testified, was, “Heath, I know you didn’t personally profit from this, and I know you didn’t do anything wrong, but they’re going to make you look bad.”

 

 

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