AR Briefly

Arkansas governor answers a couple of lectern questions

By: - October 17, 2023 6:04 pm

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders at her inauguration on Jan. 10, 2023, stands at a lectern similar to one her office purchased and that has embroiled her in controversy. (Karen E. Segrave/Arkansas Advocate)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that her office followed “standard protocol” in purchasing a lectern that prompted controversy and resulted in an ongoing legislative audit.

She also offered a few examples of what made the lectern so expensive. The governor’s office paid more than $19,000 for the lectern in June, purchasing it from an events-management company owned by a political operative with ties to Sanders. The state Republican Party in September reimbursed the state for that cost. 

Near the end of a press conference on Chinese-owned farmland in Arkansas, Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press asked Sanders whether she had authorized a staffer to write a “to be reimbursed” note added to the invoice for the lectern. That note has been at the center of allegations of tampering with a public record, which can be a felony.

Sanders responded that “it went through our standard protocol for our office on any purchase through the office manager.”

Regarding the features that added to the cost of the lectern, Sanders noted that its height (39 ½ inches) is “specific.”

“You may have noticed that traditionally women are a little bit shorter than most of our male counterparts. So that makes a little bit of a difference,” she said.

The lectern “also incorporates sound components to make it easier to plug in for multiple media outlets at one time to get the best sound quality for relay back to the stations,” she added.

There are some other features, Sanders said, “that I’ll let come through the audit process.”

The audit she referred to is one authorized last week by the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee at the request of Sen. Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana. After weeks of controversy on social media and media attention to the lectern purchase, Hickey and other lawmakers decided that a formal independent audit of the purchase and issues surrounding it would help separate fact from speculation.

Asked why she wasn’t using the lectern Tuesday, Sanders said: “Yes, I figure if I do, you’ll talk about nothing else instead of the important actions that we’re actually taking today, which unfortunately is not surprising because while we are focused on things that actually impact our state and impact Arkansans, the media wants spend all of their time focused on things that actually don’t.



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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years and returned to professional journalism in 2022 to lead the Arkansas Advocate. He is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a current member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.