Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hunt for the Treasure Hunt: Bill allows it online

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2015 at 1:49 PM

click to enlarge The Arkansas auditor' office is now directing folks to the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt through Facebook (above) and its own webpage.
  • The Arkansas auditor' office is now directing folks to the Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt through Facebook (above) and its own webpage.

The state auditor's office will no longer continue the practice, begun in 1970, of publishing in newspapers names of people with unclaimed property, also known as the "Great Arkansas Treasure Hunt." Auditor Andrea Lea will instead publish a notice in the paper directing people to the auditor's Great Treasure Hunt website.

The decision not to publish all the names — pages and pages of advertising — will be a blow to newspapers' revenue, and the Arkansas Press Association is  urging its members to contact their legislators to let them know the decision will not only cost them money but "is a bad idea if we are truly interested in returning unclaimed property to rightful owners."

But legislators are already aware. Act 592 of 2015, introduced in the House by Rep. Camille Bennett, D-Lonoke, at Andrea Lea's request, requires the auditor to advertise in a newspaper in each county, "in a form that, in the judgment of the administrator, is likely to attract the attention of the apparent owner potential owners of the unclaimed property." It removes language that required the advertisement to include names and addresses. Now, the office will take out advertising that directs people to the website to see if their name is on the list. The auditor's Facebook page also includes a link to the page, and asks, "Stock, bonds, jewelry, checks, and more! What will you find when you search your name?" What was found in April: $1,480,533.73. 

Like others in the business, I'm guessing, I was unaware of Act 592. In response to a call to the auditor's office, I got a note from Lea today saying she'd also received a call from the Press Association, and had seen the APA email to members. She wrote, "I was surprised I had not heard from them previously specifically when the bill was presented and voted on during the session. As you probably already know from your research, the bill passed with 93 in House and 31 in the Senate. No one spoke against the bill in committee nor on the floor. Having chaired State Agencies in the past myself, I was very surprised that no one from the press testified. My experience was quite different."

Lea passed along an email she sent to legislators yesterday about the press' concerns: 

Legislators,

Several of you have contacted me after receiving a call or email from your newspaper regarding ACT 592 ‘TO AMEND THE LAW CONCERNING ABANDONED PROPERTY; AND TO ALTER THE METHOD BY WHICH NOTICE OF THE ABANDONMENT OF PROPERTY IS PUBLISHED’.

As Representative Bennett and Senator Hutchinson pointed out when they presented the bill, it is an effort to refocus the money spent on reaching people with unclaimed property. We wanted to be more effective with our ad dollars. At no time while this bill was making its way through the legislature was any concern voiced to me. My first contact with the Press Association was yesterday.

During the turnover from the previous administration, they stated that the one thing they would change if given the opportunity is revising this law. They were discovering more effective ways to spend their ad monies. This prompted me to examine the issue and to reach out to legislators to make this change.

People are very mobile and the original law did not take that into consideration. The law required ads to be run in the county of the owner’s residency at the time when the unclaimed property originated. This resulted in many full pages of lists of names and addresses. However, a great number of the names and addresses were obsolete – one of the reasons some of the owners couldn’t be found! The property owners would be in another state or another county and never see the ad. The old method of property listing cost the taxpayers almost $220,000 in 2014 – with only limited success. The new method puts a statewide listing in each courthouse and on our website, and is more accurate and complete.

The law still mandates that our office advertise in a newspaper in each county. The change was that we would not list all names and addresses. The only notice mandated by law is that of newspaper publication. No other media, including radio or TV, is included. And yes, radio stations have taken note of that and I have received requests from them.

As you know, the times they are a changing. Since 1997 we have seen many pieces of legislation changing how the state reports, notifies, posts announcements etc. All the changes have moved away from print.

We have continued with changing up our outreach methods to see what is most effective. We have used TV, radio, Facebook, public gatherings, senior centers and direct mail. We are definitely not hiding any information. The online filings have risen 8% just since we started in January. That tells us that people have access and use the Internet to file for their property. I have reached out to libraries about putting flyers by their public computers.

Finally, my mission is to return property to the rightful owners. I want to do that in the most effective and efficient way possible. Since taking this position I have devoted my time to analyzing how best to do this. We will continue to adjust to meet the mission.

Thank you,

Andrea Lea
Arkansas Auditor of State
State Capitol, Suite 230
(501) 682-6030

UPDATE: Lea says the Department of Finance and Administration was the first agency to publish the list. The auditor's office took over in the 1980s, she said.

Tags: , , , ,

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Leslie Newell Peacock

  • Pantry's Bohm buys Hillcrest Artisan Meats

    Tomas Bohm, owner of Czech and German eateries The Pantry in West Little Rock and The Pantry Crest in Hillcrest, will take over the space now occupied by Hillcrest Artisan Meats at 2807 Kavanaugh Blvd. next year. Brandon Brown and his wife, Tara Protiva-Brown, will continue to operate H.A.M. until the end of the year; Bohm hopes to reopen under a new name sometime in February.
    • Dec 6, 2016
  • Arts Center chooses Studio Gang for architectural job

    An Arkansas Arts Center committee named to select the architect for the arts center's multimillion dollar renovation has chosen the Chicago-based firm Studio Gang, a choice widely expected after the firm's presentation to the public at the Arts Center on Nov. 1.
    • Dec 6, 2016
  • Sewer plant request off City Board agenda

    The City Board of Directors will not take up at tomorrow's board meeting developer Rick Ferguson's request that the city overrule the Planning Commission's decision denying him a Conditional Use Permit to build a wastewater treatment plant on his property at 25616 Hwy. 10, opponents of Ferguson's plan tell the Times.
    • Dec 5, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • It's official: Mike Huckabee has lost his mind

    Mike Huckabee's plan for winning the Republican presidential nomination is to convince primary voters there's a holy war underway against Christians.
    • Apr 24, 2015
  • More defense for the Duggars from Arkansas legislators Hester and Woods

    A couple of Arkansas Republican legislators rise to the defense of the Duggars. It's a family matter, they say. We beg to differ.
    • May 22, 2015
  • Mike Huckabee, meet James Madison

    Not that it will do much good, but Times columnist Ernest Dumas this week provides some useful Founding Father history, plus a little bit of Bible, for how wrong-headed Mike Huckabee, Asa Hutchinson, the Republican legislature and others are in using government to enforce their religious views.
    • May 26, 2015

Most Shared

  • Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist resigns

    Bob Scoggin, 50, the Department of Arkansas Heritage archeologist whose job it was to review the work of agencies, including DAH and the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department, for possible impacts on historic properties, resigned from the agency on Monday. Multiple sources say Scoggin, whom they describe as an "exemplary" employee who the week before had completed an archeological project on DAH property, was told he would be fired if he did not resign.
  • Labor department director inappropriately expensed out-of-state trips, audit finds

    Jones was "Minority Outreach Coordinator" for Hutchinson's 2014 gubernatorial campaign. The governor first named him as policy director before placing him over the labor department instead in Jan. 2015, soon after taking office.
  • Lawsuit filed against ADC officials, prison chaplain convicted of sexual assault at McPherson

    A former inmate who claims she was sexually assaulted over 70 times by former McPherson Womens' Unit chaplain Kenneth Dewitt has filed a federal lawsuit against Dewitt, several staff members at the prison, and officials with the Arkansas Department of Corrections, including former director Ray Hobbs.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.

Visit Arkansas

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Arkansas remembers Pearl Harbor

Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation