Legislative panel hears more on UA deficit controversy

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 132 views 

Conflicting testimony about deficit spending at the University of Arkansas was again heard before a legislative group.

A state audit found deficits in the UA Division of Advancement’s budget of $2.14 million in fiscal 2011 and $4.19 million in fiscal 2012.

In September 2013, Roger Norman, director of the state’s division of Legislative Audit, forwarded an investigative report to Prosecuting Attorney John Threet of Fayetteville. Threet eventually decided to not pursue an investigation based on the audit report.

On Tuesday (Jan. 7), the Joint Performance Review Committee of the Arkansas Legislature heard from former UA employees who were not allowed to testify during a December legislative hearing.

Brad Choate, who ran the University of Arkansas’s fundraising division, suggested there’s a “culture of cover up” by school officials, according to this report at KUAR Public Radio.

“Frankly, this is another example of a pattern of shameful behaviors designed to protect themselves rather than be honest and accountable. Ladies and gentlemen, something is rotten in Fayetteville.”

Choate called himself the fall guy for problems that he said had been building since Fayetteville Chancellor David Gearhart ran the Advancement department.

Gearhart disputed that.

“The simple truth is that Mr. Choate failed to carry out his duties and responsibilities as vice-chancellor by ignoring his duty to manage and supervise budgetary matters,” Gearhart said.

Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, and co-chair of the committee, was not pleased with testimony from either side.

“I have been very confused here to figure out how it is you can have this much money floating around and there are all these people who have not a clue about what the budget is or what the projections are,” English said.

Fallout from the advancement division included the sudden and controversial firing of John Diamond by Chris Wyrick, the UA vice chancellor for university advancement. Diamond was serving as the vice chancellor of university relations. Diamond was fired in August, with Wyrick alleging that UA “senior leadership had lost faith” in him.

Diamond asserted that Wyrick had created a “toxic environment” in the department, and threatened the university’s credibility through a “disregard for the University’s obligations” under Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act. Diamond has also alleged that UA officials told him to destroy documents related to a budget shortfall in the UA Advancement Division.