LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Legislative Audit Executive Committee voted Thursday to look into a podium purchased by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office. The podium has received pushback because receipts show the total purchase added up to more than $19,000.
Some on social media are referring to the ordeal as “Podiumgate.”
What is in question is how the purchase was made and the hefty price tag.
The podium was originally paid for with Arkansas tax dollars, though the Republican Party of Arkansas later reimbursed the state for it.
Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) requested the audit. He noted in his statements that he learned this week that the reimbursement came the day legislators left the Capitol following the special session, where a new, more narrow Freedom of Information Act was signed into law.
“That reimbursement needs to be looked at,” he told members of the committee.
Members voted to pass three parts of the auditing request, allowing them to also look into expenditures dating back to June of 2022, and requiring them to develop procedures for their reporting of their findings.
“A finding would be anything from whether or not they violated a policy or procedure or whether or not a law was violated,” Republican and committee co-chair Rep. Jimmy Gazaway said. “It can mean any number of things.”
While the issue appears partisan, with many Democrats behind the questioning, Gazaway reiterated that the committee is a nonpartisan, independent group and the expedited auditing process will likely begin as soon as Friday, pending full approval from the full committee.
A few Democrats sat in on the meeting Thursday to hear the subcommittee decide on the audit request. House Minority Leader Tippi Mccullough (D-Little Rock) said she was pleased to see members approve the request.
“Most of us in the legislature want there to be a full investigation and everything to be out in the open and transparency, so I think the end result was the correct one,” she said.
Sanders appears to also be on the same page when it comes to interest in an audit. Her spokesperson, Alexa Henning, provided a statement on the audit.
“The governor welcomes the audit and encourages legislators to complete it without delay,” Henning said. “This is nothing more than a manufactured controversy by left-wing activists to distract from the bold conservative reforms the legislature has passed and the governor has signed into law and is effectively implementing in Arkansas.”