A lengthy report and committee meeting determined the Governor’s administration potentially broke some laws in seven instances.

Yesterday our team covered hours of a Legislative Joint Audit meeting regarding the Governor’s procurement process and handling of public funds. At the heart of yesterday’s committee proceedings was that infamous purchase of a $19,000 lectern.  

We have a fantastic play-by-play that’s admittedly long. If you find yourself short on time, here’s a simplified summary of main proceedings and our takeaways. 

The big “whoopsies” by the Gov’s Office: 

  1. Violation of Procurement Laws: The Governor’s Office (GO) allegedly violated procurement laws by not following proper procedures for purchasing a lectern. This includes issues like not obtaining multiple quotes, using a purchasing card instead of a purchase order, and improper classification of the expenditure.
  1. Ownership and Disposal of Assets: There are discrepancies regarding the ownership of the lectern purchased. The audit suggests that the lectern and case remain state property due to improper disposal procedures by the GO.
  1. FOIA Compliance: The GO may have violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by withholding or improperly redacting documents requested by the auditors. There are concerns about the completeness and accuracy of the information provided.
  1. Financial Management: The audit identifies potential violations of financial management laws, including improper payment procedures and misclassification of expenses.
  1. Document Retention: The GO failed to properly retain and document certain records, including shredding important documents like the bill of lading, which is considered a violation of document retention laws.

What went down during the committee meeting: 

  • Rep. Gazaway, chair of Legislative Audit, and the Attorney General’s office went back and forth with legal arguments regarding the inclusion or exclusion of Constitutional Officers in certain provisions.
  • The AG’s office emphasized the importance of reasoning over conclusions and suggested a textualist approach to the issue.
  • Rep. Gazaway and AG suggested that the matter may need to be settled in court.
  • Various legislators questioned representatives from the Governor’s Office and the AG’s office about the audit process, procurement procedures, and the handling of taxpayer funds.
  • Concerns were raised about the transparency of the audit process and the accuracy of the information the GO provided.
  • Representatives from the GO defended their actions and procurement decisions, stating that no taxpayer money was used for the purchase and attempting to explain their rationale for certain decisions.
  • Legislators expressed concerns and frustrations with the situation, seeking clarification and accountability.
  • The AG’s office defended their legal opinion and involvement in the audit process, emphasizing their alleged commitment to providing unbiased legal analysis.

Implications for Transparency and Accountability:

  1. Procurement Procedures: Questions were raised about the procurement procedures followed for the purchase of the lectern, including whether proper bidding processes were followed.
  1. Handling of Taxpayer Funds: Concerns were expressed regarding the handling of taxpayer funds, particularly regarding the justification for using private funds for the purchase and the subsequent reimbursement, as well as the timing of the Republican Party of Arkansas’ choice to reimburse the GO. There were also questions about the classification of expenses and whether proper procedures were followed in the classification of the lectern.
  1. Transparency of Information: Legislators raised concerns about the availability and accuracy of information provided by the Governor’s Office, particularly regarding the availability of the lectern for public viewing and the discrepancies between the information provided by the Governor’s Office and the findings of the audit.
  1. Response to Audit Findings: Several legislators on both sides of the aisle expressed dissatisfaction with the response from the Governor’s Office to the findings of the audit, questioning the level of accountability and responsibility taken for the discrepancies identified.

Stay tuned for more analysis and up to date info as it unfolds!