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Prosecutor clears Sanders’ office over lectern purchase

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(The Center Square) – A state prosecutor said there was “insufficient proof” of criminal wrongdoing in Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders office’s purchase of a lectern.

An audit of the more than $19,000 June 2023 purchase said it was paid for on the state’s credit card. Sanders’ office said the Republican Party of Arkansas was to reimburse the purchase, which it did in September.

“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.

Will Jones, prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit, addressed whether the purchase violated the state’s General Accounting and Budgetary Procedures Law. Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office released a report in April that said the governor’s office is not subject to the state’s procurement laws because it is not a state agency but a constitutional office.

“Given the multiple interpretations of the GABPL and the ambiguity over whether it applies to the AGO (Arkansas Governor’s Office), there is insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the statute was knowingly violated,” Jones said in a letter to the state auditor’s office.

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

The handwritten note did not constitute the “offense of tampering with a public record,” Jones said.

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. Jones said even though only 140 pages were received through the open records request and the audit committee received 153 pages, there was no evidence of criminal negligence.

“Further and most importantly, there is no evidence to show the identity of the employee that compiled the documents or if that person even qualifies as a custodian of the records as is required by (Arkansas code),” Jones said.

Alexa Henning, Sanders’ communications director, said the letter confirms what the governor’s office knew all along.

“We followed the law, reimbursed the state with private funds, and this was nothing more than a ridiculous controversy manufactured by the far left,” Henning said.

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