I reported previously on several Freedom of Information (FOI) requests I have filed with the State Treasurer’s office as I am looking at some of the recent problems that State Treasurer Martha Shoffner has had.
One area of concern is her lack of clarity in explaining to an audit committee why she decided to disregard a subpoena they issued for her to appear before their committee last Friday to explain the irregularities found in a report from Legislative Audit.
Appearing on Monday, Shoffner told the committee that she was at a last minute economic development commission in Jackson County. However, her office refuses to provide additional details on this meeting. In addition, the director of the Newport Economic Development Commission tells me that he along with the director of the Newport Area Chamber of Commerce were both out of town for training and did not meet with Shoffner.
So without any more information, I filed a FOI request for the phone records of Shoffner to see who all she had called with her state-provided cell phone. Perhaps maybe this could shed some light on who was at this highly important meeting.
Her office initially responded to my request by providing me with a summary page of her cell phone bills that included only information on her monthly billed amount. It is basically the information you get on the first page of your cell phone bill. It did not include a detailed log of her phone records.
So I asked again specifically for a log of her phone calls. This should be easily available from her telephone provider – Verizon. On my bill, this detail was automatic without me even having to request it.
“After researching the issue, this office has determined that it is not required to produce documents not in its possession. And neither is it required to create documents,” said Ken Burks with the Treasurer’s office in denying this request. He also said that he is not aware of any other state office that has these records.
So apparently Shoffner has found a way to get around the problems that Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino and Houston Nutt had with their cell phones - just don’t have the telephone company send your office a detailed bill and then there is no need to provide this information to the public.
Was this done specifically to get around having this information subject to FOI? I don’t know. But then again, I guess we should expect this from Shoffner who once referred to the Governor’s state police detail as “man-servants.”
Surely, the same rules that apply to Petrino don’t apply to someone as important as her.