Audit of lectern purchase cites issues of noncompliance with state laws



(The Center Square) – A report released Monday from the Arkansas Legislative Audit said Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ office may have violated state law by paying for a podium before it was delivered and applying it to operating expenses.

Sanders’ office denied any state laws were broken.

The Arkansas Joint Legislative Joint Auditing Committee agreed in October to an expedited audit of the lectern’s purchase.

Blogger Matt Campbell, was the first to question the lectern purchase, showing a copy of the invoice on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, after obtaining it through an open records request.

The purchase of the lectern for more than $19,009.25 was initially paid for on a state credit card. The expenditure was reimbursed by the Republican Party of Arkansas the day Sanders signed changes to the state’s Freedom of Information Act into law.

“Prior to the FOIA request related to the podium purchase made in September 11, there was no indication the Governor’s Office was seeking reimbursement of the podium and road case,” auditors said in their report.

Auditors also questioned a handwritten note on an invoice that said “to be reimbursed” and said altering the public record after it was entered in the statewide information center is “in potential conflict with language expressed” in Arkansas law.

Sanders’ office said the law would be broken if it was a “false alteration.”

“Making handwritten notes on invoices is a common bookkeeping practice and has been historically utilized in state government,” the governor’s office said in its response.

Sanders’ office said it was not subject to state procurement laws.

“The GO (governor’s office) is not a state agency, rather it is a constitutional office, under the law, thereby exempting the office from the majority of agency accounting and budgetary procedures, statutory capitalization requirements, and procurement rules for disposing of assets,” Sanders’ office said in its response.

Auditors disagreed, saying it is an agency for the purposes of the General Accounting and Budgetary Procedures law.

Sanders posted a video on her X account late Monday afternoon showing the podium that ended with the words “Come and take it.”

The findings have been turned over to the Sixth Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney and the Attorney General, auditors said.

The Democratic Party of Arkansas called on the prosecuting attorney to investigate the findings.

“This is not and never was a partisan matter, but a very serious investigation of wrongdoing by government officials who may have broken as many as seven state laws,” said Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Grant Tennille in a statement.

The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee meets Tuesday to discuss the report.

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