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State Forester, Former CFO explain agency's money woes

Former State Forestry Chief Financial Officer Robert Araiza wants to clear his name before state lawmakers.

LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Former State Forestry Chief Financial Officer Robert Araiza wants to clear his name before state lawmakers.

"I believe that all of you had been given that opportunity four years ago, the outcome would be different today," said Araiza.

He said he told his superiors -- particularly State Forester John Shannon -- the agency would run out of money from its trust fund if they continued to dip into it.  Perhaps if they acknowledged his warnings, dating back to four years ago, he said those 36 laid off workers would have their jobs.

"I did everything I could do. I sounded all of the alarms and pushed all of the buttons," said Araiza.

"If you knew that, and you were advising these people, they heard you and weren't listening, ignore that, call your legislators," State Senator Percy Malone, D-District 26, said.

But Araiza says Shannon ordered no one speak to lawmakers about anything going in the agency.

"I know they know their local legislators. They go to church together and go to the same grocery store so the idea that I would stop employees from talking to legislators is not true," John Shannon, the Arkansas State Forester.

Shannon claims Araiza made errors pulling money from other sources.  As a result, he plans to form an oversight committee to prevent this from happening again.

"The blame is on me. There have been mistakes and I apologize," said Shannon.

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