|Updated: 9/14/2012 8:19 pm
||Published: 9/14/2012 9:54 am
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - State Treasurer Martha Shoffner's office said Friday she'll appear before a legislative panel next week after her absence at a hearing on an audit of her office's investment practices prompted Arkansas lawmakers to issue a subpoena.
Hours after lawmakers issued a subpoena for Shoffner to show up at Friday's meeting, the treasurer's office said she and her staff would speak with the panel Monday afternoon.
"The State Treasurer was not present at the Legislative Joint Audit Committee meeting on Friday, September 14, 2012, due to a last minute scheduling conflict," Debbie Rogers, chief deputy treasurer, said in a statement released by the office. "However, senior staff members, fully qualified and scheduled to be on the agenda, were in attendance to answer questions from the committee."
The statement, which did not say where Shoffner was, was issued shortly after the committee's chairmen said they planned another subpoena to compel her to testify before the panel's Monday meeting. Shoffner did not return a call to her office Friday.
A spokesman for Arkansas State Police said it served the subpoena to Shoffner in Newport on Friday afternoon.
"We regret we had to go to this step, but we're the Legislature and we have certain responsibilities as the chairpersons of the audit committee, and we intend to fulfill those responsibilities," Rep. Tim Summers, R-Bentonville, the committee's co-chairman, told reporters.
The committee's audit, which was made public Friday, found that Shoffner's office sold bonds from its investment portfolio before they had matured and purchased similar bonds from the same brokers, resulting in a net loss of $58,172.
In a response attached to the audit, Shoffner's office said it had decided to try a different approach to generate more money.
"However, as reported, the yield was not as anticipated due to the low interest rate of the money markets," the response said. "Treasury has not sold any bonds since February and will not sell again until there are better yields in money markets for the time between purchasing bonds and the actual settlement date."
It was not clear what would happen, if anything, if Shoffner did not appear before the panel Monday. Frank Arey, an attorney for the Division of Legislative Audit, said the panel could ask a judge to hold Shoffner in contempt.
Legislative Auditor Roger Norman said he didn't think that step was likely, but neither Summers nor co-chairman Sen. Bill Pritchard, R-Elkins, would completely rule it out as an option.
"If she doesn't show up, then we'll take the next appropriate steps and we'll rely on counsel to tell us what the next appropriate step is," Pritchard said.
The audit panel previously has subpoenaed local officials for not appearing, but Norman said he couldn't remember it ever issuing a subpoena to a constitutional officer.
Summers and Pritchard denied that the subpoena was politically motivated, though state Republicans issued a statement Friday afternoon criticizing Shoffner for not appearing at the hearing. Democrats control the state House and Senate, but Republicans believe they're poised to win a majority in both chambers in November.
Shoffner, a former state representative, was elected treasurer in 2006 and re-elected four years later. During her re-election bid, she apologized for referring to the state trooper driving Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, as a "manservant." Shoffner made the comments while defending her personal use of a state vehicle.
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