House GOP Leader Bruce Westerman Calls for Martha Shoffner's Removal

LITTLE ROCK - The top Republican in the Arkansas House called on the governor Tuesday to begin the process to remove state Treasurer Martha Shoffner over federal charges she accepted cash from an investment broker.

House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman asked Gov. Mike Beebe to convene lawmakers to remove Shoffner, a day after she appeared in court on federal extortion charges. Beebe, a Democrat, and other top elected officials have asked Shoffner to step down.

"Given the extreme lack of regard she has shown towards the law and, more importantly, the hardworking Arkansas taxpayers whose money she is responsible for, her continued service in the state treasurer's office is now untenable," Westerman said in a prepared statement.

Shoffner, a Democrat, has said she has no plans to step down. Shoffner is accused of taking at least $36,000 in cash from a broker to whom she steered business.

Beebe's office said it asked the attorney general's office for guidance on the options available if Shoffner doesn't resign, but that it was not yet calling for impeachment proceedings.

"You're talking about some pretty uncharted territory, especially in recent memory," Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample said.

Westerman called for Shoffner's removal under one of two options laid out in the Arkansas Constitution that says the governor can remove the treasurer "upon the joint address of two-thirds" of the House and Senate. But it's unclear whether that provision means a two-thirds vote is needed to remove Shoffner.

The other option for removing Shoffner allows for the House to vote to impeach, followed by a Senate trial presided over by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

Chuck Banks, Shoffner's attorney, did not immediately return phone calls or respond to an email Tuesday. Banks on Monday told reporters he'd probably advise Shoffner to step down.

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

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.

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