I’m trying to distill all this business about the legislative audit of state Treasurer Martha Shoffner. And I’m going to go with this one-two-three:
1. It is simply unacceptable, indeed an outrage, that the person constitutionally charged with being custodian of state government money would sell bonds early at a loss through a firm that seems to get an inordinate amount of her business — meaning our business — and then not be able, or willing, to explain to state legislators why she did it. (The transaction is not necessarily improper; not explaining it is unacceptable.) Not being able to recall the specifics of a loss of hundreds of thousands of public dollars, and promising to go a “different direction” henceforth, and having to be subpoenaed before actually sitting to field but effectively skirt questions — I don’t know what to do about that. Personally, I think I’d grant formal whistle-blower protection to that investment officer who asked for it, then sit her down with the auditors and the state Securities Department and the State Police and see where it goes.
2. This is an old one with me, but I’m going with it again. These minor administrative constitutional offices in the state Capitol — treasurer, auditor, land commissioner, lieutenant governor, at least — are antiquated and absurd, havens for political hangers-on like Shoffner. We need a modern consolidated executive, meaning the governor, whom we elect actually by paying attention, whose Finance and Administration Department would incorporate the mostly clerical and menial and pro-forma duties of treasurer (except for blowing investments), auditor and land commissioner. The Board of Finance could set deposit and investment policy, and it could be executed by admnistrative personnel in DF & A. The lieutenant governor exists only to provide somebody to ascend to governor should that be required. Let the president pro tem of the Senate do that. Paul Bookout, Larry Teague, Michael Lamoureux — all are more qualified than Mark Darr. I waver a bit on whether we need to elect a constitutional officer called secretary of state to mow the Capitol lawn and file some documents. I don’t think we do, but coordinating election services under the governor — I don’t know, it worries me some. I acknowledge we need an attorney general kept separate from the governor. Well, we need his staff. We don’t need him personally so much.
3. Republicans are spinning Shoffner as an example of an odorous Democratic culture that can only be corrected by electing Republicans. That’s ironic, considering that I’ve always found Shoffner to be quite right-leaning in an acerbic way. You know, the kind of person who would insult Mike Beebe and the State Police by referring to the governor’s security detail officer as a “man-servant.” I will acknowledge this much: If we are going to keep these prehistoric constitutional offices of treasurer, auditor and land commissioner, I’d just as soon see real Republicans hold them. Years ago I endorsed a Republican — I think he was a CPA/laywer named Bynum — for treasurer. He got beat two-to-one by a legislative hanger-on noted mostly for hiring daughters.