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State auditors refer lecterngate findings to prosecutor’s workplace

The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee has launched the ultimate report from an impartial company concerning its audit of Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ use of state funds to buy a $19,000 lectern final yr, in addition to different expenditures by the governor’s workplace made between June 13 and Dec. 10.

Here’s the report. The Arkansas Occasions is reviewing it and the supporting paperwork and can have an replace on its findings shortly. We will verify, nevertheless, that auditors are referring their findings to Will Jones, the prosecutor for the Sixth Judicial District, to find out whether or not any felony costs ought to be filed. The report has additionally been forwarded to Legal professional Normal Tim Griffin, it says.

Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) requested the audit last September following heavy media coverage of the governor’s alleged purchase of the pricey lectern from Virginia Beckett. Beckett, a buddy of Sanders, was a paid guide on the governor’s 2022 marketing campaign. (Her firm, Beckett Occasions, does not produce or sell lecterns.) The audit committee approved the audit on Oct. 13.

A photograph of the $19K lectern launched by the govenror’s workplace final yr.

Late final month, head auditor Roger Norman announced that the report was complete and his workplace was solely ready on Sanders’ response to the draft report. Norman mentioned it’s customary follow for the get together being audited to see the report and put together a response earlier than the report is finalized. Sanders’ response was included with the ultimate model of the report launched as we speak.

One broad space of disagreement between Sanders and auditors is whether or not the governor is topic to the state’s procurement and property disposal legal guidelines. Final week, Griffin, the lawyer common, issued a proper opinion saying Sanders was not certain by both, apart from statutes that particularly talked about “constitutional places of work” or “constitutional officers.” We’ve argued that Griffin’s opinion is largely irrelevant and is little more than an effort by the attorney general to give Sanders a talking point for the media after the report was released.

Legal professional Tom Mars, who represents a former state worker who alleges wrongdoing by the governor’s workplace over paperwork associated to the lectern, mentioned Griffin’s opinion was a “PR smokescreen.”

“Whether or not sure buying legal guidelines apply to constitutional officers is, at greatest, solely marginally related to the issues that have been investigated by the legislative auditors,” Mars mentioned. “What’s extra, the Governor being exempt from these legal guidelines wouldn’t even arguably be a protection to [any charges of] misuse of state funds, fraud, or the alteration of presidency paperwork.”

Contemplating the report particularly mentions a referral to a prosecutor, Mars’ level about potential felony costs is especially attention-grabbing. Mars’ whistleblower client has said the governor’s office altered documents related to the lectern purchase earlier than releasing these paperwork underneath the state’s Freedom of Info Act. According to a tweet from Mars, the whistleblower “gave sworn testimony to the legislative auditors earlier than a courtroom reporter based mostly on first-hand data of the alteration and concealment of extremely related data.”

Requested whether or not federal legislation enforcement was wanting into the matter as effectively, Mars responded, “I’m not attempting to be evasive, however I can’t reply that.” He famous {that a} grand jury subpoena explicitly warns in opposition to disclosing even the receipt of such a subpoena.

This submit will likely be up to date with extra data.

The submit State auditors refer lecterngate findings to prosecutor’s office appeared first on Arkansas Times.