Gov. Beebe said today that he has asked Legislative Audit to review the finances of the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC) and signaled that his support for AFC Director John Shannon might be waning, although he is reserving judgment for the results of the audit.
His comment echoed those first reported by Michael Wickline in this morning’s Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Beebe said this morning that he made that decision for a couple reasons.
“First of all, that’s their job. Secondly, they have got more credibility to have a legislative body looking at an executive branch agency. We look at it to, but I think it is even better to have the legislative committee look at it, especially the ones charged with that responsibility. And there are some questions I want answered that I really want them to look at,” said Beebe.
Specifically, Beebe said he wanted answers to “all the circumstance and facts surrounding the wrongful certification of income.” He also said that he requested the agency self-report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding the issues surrounding the use of federal grant money for operations. That investigation is ongoing.
When asked if management changes are needed at the AFC, Beebe said, “Until all the facts are in, I don’t think anybody can say one way or the other. I think you have to determine who knew about the miscertification. Who knew that they were either intentionally doing it wrong or incompetently doing it wrong and I don’t know the answer to that. Who knew it and who should have known it? Until you see the answers to those questions, it would be premature to say.”
As for director Shannon, Beebe said, “I still have confidence in him, but I still want these questions answered and depending on the answers to the questions will dictate the answer to your other question about what needs to be done.”