Saturday, January 14, 2012

Legislative Republicans Request Audit of Forestry Commission Budget Shortfall

. . . After Beebe Administration Mismanagement

Do audit of forestry shortfall, panel says
By Michael Wickline, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 1/13/12
LITTLE ROCK — A legislative panel Thursday OK’d two legislators’ requests for an audit of the Arkansas Forestry Commission, which is laying off 36 employees today as a result of a $4 million shortfall.

The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee’s Executive Committee approved audit requests from Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, and Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, who have emerged as two of the leading critics of Gov. Mike Beebe’s administration’s handling of the situation at the commission.
Hammer and Irvin told lawmakers that they want an unbiased accounting of the commission.

Sen. Bill Pritchard, co-chairman of the auditing committee, said, “with all the back and forth that has been going on in the newspapers - with he said, she said [about the shortfall] - I think it is appropriate that we find out the facts.

“Once we know all the facts, then we the Legislature and the executive branch will be in a position to make appropriate decisions to make sure that [the commission’s] mission is carried out,” said Pritchard, a Republican from Elkins.

Beebe, a Democrat, said Wednesday that he has told legislative leaders that he wants the audit division to find out who was aware of and responsible for erroneous official reports that masked the commission’s slide into the shortfall and its misuse of federal funds.

“I am happy for an independent organization to make that determination,” Beebe said. “We are trying to make that determination, too. I am trying to personally make that determination.”

But state Rep. Bryan King, R-Green Forest and a third leading critic of the administration’s handling of this matter, said Beebe “needs to point the finger at himself for this whole problem.”

Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample countered that the governor and the state Department of Finance and Administration didn’t fail to do their jobs, and the governor’s office has offered for more than a month to meet with King to answer his questions, but King hasn’t accepted the offer.

King said, “That’s funny because I have been waiting on them to set up a phone conference after looking at the governor’s schedule. Good grief. I have been waiting on the governor’s staff to e-mail answers to questions about the e-mails that they won’t answer.”

Several weeks ago, the commission announced it would lay off 36 employees because it projected that its costs will exceed available funds by $4 million.

At that time, State Forester John Shannon and Beebe said they only recently became aware of the extent of the commission’s fiscal distress though they knew that the timber industry was struggling during the housing-market downturn and that revenue from a timber severance tax on which the commission relies was lower than in previous years.

Shannon and his former chief fiscal officer, Robert Araiza, later told lawmakers that Beebe discouraged the commission from holding a meeting of industry representatives in 2010 to discuss a tax increase as a possible solution to the fiscal problems. A Beebe spokesman said the decision not to hold the meeting was practical, based on the strong anti-tax climate at the time and the fact that it involved an industry hit hard by the recession.

No legislator has announced any support for a tax increase since then…
Read full story (Subscription Only)    [H/T RPA for providing this info]

Also Read:  

* The Arkansas Forestry Commission and a “Beebe Bailout”
* How Much Did Beebe Know And When Did he Know It?

Tags: Arkansas, Governor, Mike Beebe, Arkansas Forestry Commission, Beebe Bailout, overspending, audit, layoffs, lack of oversight, lack of transparency


Ratchell Richter said...

LMAO Beebe just got a Barrack Bailout---Problem?

Don-Andre Blansett said...

Thanks for keeping this in the nice to see it on our television stations

David Meeks said...

Keep up the good work. This is not going away.

Janet Crow said...

Thanks for continuing to report to the public about this!