Brock: Treasurer appears before lawmakers

State lawmakers heard from Arkansas Treasurer of State Martha Shoffner on Monday to answer questions about her investment policies. At the hearing, a key senior manager in Shoffner’s office asked about “whistleblower” status.


An audit report issued a week ago by the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit raised questions about business practices in Shoffner’s office. Shoffner has steered an extraordinary amount of investment business to St. Bernard Financial Services in Russellville. The audit report found “significant deficiencies” with how several large bond transactions were conducted.

Shoffner will appear again before legislators in October to answer more questions regarding the office and its conduct.

Gov. Mike Beebe, Little Rock and Fort Smith will host a delegation from the Chinese city of Jining on Oct. 3-4. The announcement was made by Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders at this week’s city board meeting.

Sanders said nine municipal officials from the Chinese province known for mining and manufacturing would tour Fort Smith, the Clinton presidential library and meet with Beebe at the Governor’s Mansion.

Beebe met with the Mayor of Jining and signed a memorandum of understanding with the Shandong Province during his trip to China in April.

Arkansas’ civilian labor force contracted for the third straight month, but the state’s August jobless rate remained steady at 7.3 percent. The unemployment rate in Arkansas is eight-tenths of a percentage point below the 8.1 percent rate from August 2011. The measurement was 7.3 percent in July 2012. U.S. unemployment fell two-tenths of a percent in August to 8.1%.

The state’s civilian labor force fell to 1,379,400 in August, down by a net of 3,600 workers from the previous month. Arkansas Department of Workforce Services officials reported that civilian employment fell by 3,000 between July and August, while the number of unemployed declined by 600 workers. Still, the number of unemployed workers in Arkansas has fallen by more than 11,000 during the past 12 months.

The Arkansas Military Department has informed 117 employees that their jobs will be eliminated in the next 12-18 months.

Major Chris Heathscott, spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard, said the job loss is a result of a change in federal regulations at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. The new regulations no longer allow state employees to perform tasks that solely support National Guard operations.

Some employees have been with the department for 20 years or more. They will be allowed to retire or accept severance packages based on years of service. Severance packages range between $800-$1,600.

Delta Trust Investments financial advisor Chad Carlson says the Federal Reserve’s third round of Quantitative Easing (QE3) is an effort to boost hiring, but it will impact fixed income investors.

Carlson said that QE3 is an effort to keep interest rates low for a long duration to encourage business investment, improve the housing market and lower unemployment.

“What I read to be the biggest difference is that they’re forecasting that not only is their objective to keep interest rates low for a while, but they’ve also said after the recovery has taken place, the objective here is to help with housing and put people back to work,” Carlson said.

Last week, the Fed announced the third round of Quantitative Easing, a policy that, in part, calls for the central bank to purchase mortgage-backed securities at a pace of $40 billion per month. Carlson said it remains to be seen if the third effort to jolt a stronger economic recovery will work. He said that for fixed income investors, particularly retirees, the low interest rate environment could cause hardship.

A $5 million gift from the Tyson family and Tyson Foods will establish a research and residency program at Bentonville’s Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

The Tyson Scholars of American Art will bring scholars to Bentonville to research the history of American art by using the museum’s permanent collection and library. Scholars will interact with Crystal Bridges staff and the community and will collaborate with the University of Arkansas. Scholars will be selected by a committee of Crystal Bridges staff members and outside art historians based on their submitted proposals. Each scholar will receive a stipend and will be housed in Bentonville.

Walgreens completes acquisition of USA Drug

After unceremoniously announcing it would close nearly half of the USA Drug Stores it purchased in June, Walgreens said the transaction has officially concluded.

Walgreens, one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S., acquired USA Drug and several additional entities from Pine Bluff-based Stephen L. LaFrance Holdings, Inc. and members of the LaFrance family. The $438 million deal brought 144 stores, corporate offices and a distribution center under the Walgreens umbrella. The acquisition included locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. Last week, Walgreens disclosed it would shut down 76 drugstores as part of the deal, including 27 outlets in Arkansas.

ASU hires alum Terry Mohajir as athletic director

Terry Mohajir, an Arkansas State University alumnus, has been hired as the school’s athletic director. The Overland Park, Kan., native has been involved with major fundraising campaigns at multiple universities, while also overseeing corporate sales, marketing promotions and ticket sales.

He most recently served the last 13 months at the University of Kansas as senior associate director of athletics and chief marketing officer. Prior to his time with the Jayhawks, he spent a seven-year stint as Florida Atlantic’s senior associate director of athletics for external relations from 2004-11 after working at the University of Missouri- Kansas City from 1997-2004 as its assistant director of athletics for external relations.

Roby Brock, a freelance journalist based in Little Rock, writes weekly for the Arkansas News Bureau. His weekly television program airs at 10 p.m. Sundays in Central and Northwest Arkansas. His e-mail address is; his Web site address is