Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:53:00
University of Arkansas
officials celebrated a Fayetteville prosecutor's determination
that there wasn't sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges related to the monumental fiasco in the UA's advancement division.
There wasn't much to cheer. The review only further reiterated what has long been known:
The UA relied on largely secretive private foundation money to square accounts every year. People who are paid BIG bucks to be accounting experts engaged in all manner of sloppy and ill-advised financial practices. University officials resisted press inquiries repeatedly, though perhaps not to illegal extremes.
Feel better about your university?
I note this point on the question of destruction of records, as reported in the Democrat-Gazette today:
“With the possible exception of foundation payment authorization forms … there is no evidence that any records relevant to our examination, needed for the audit or subject to an [Freedom of Information Act] request were disposed of,” wrote Bercaw.
Original payment-authorization forms dating back to 2009 were stored electronically at the UA Foundation, Bercaw said.
It appears to me that Deputy Prosecutor David Bercaw
moved subtly here to support business at usual at the UA — a business practice that is guaranteed to create future problems.
He appears to confirm that payment authorization forms WERE destroyed (as sources had told me earlier and as university officials had seemed to dispute). But, no problem, he said. See, parallel records are available at the private UA Foundation
. That's not a good explanation. Those records are closed to public inspection.
This is the same rigamarole used to shield many of the sensitive workings of the UA Athletic Department
colossus. Most of its money — raised through premium ticket prices — is laundered through the Razorback Foundation
. It holds itself secret and unaccountable to the public. Bercaw, it so happens, once worked for the Ball and Mourton
law firm in Fayetteville. I note the coincidence only because lead partner Kenneth Mourton
is a Razorback Foundation board member and often the person to whom I'm referred when stonewalled there about foundation finances.
Chancellor David Gearhart
may have been "pleased" at the announcement yesterday, as the D-G indicated, but there's not much here to cheer about except years of deficit spending and sloppy oversight by some well-paid people who operate in a shadowy realm where accountability came only from tireless newspaper reporting, an extended legislative audit process (marred by holes in university records) and now a prosecutor's review. This, the current UA student body president thinks
, is somehow unfair. Which raises some questions about education being handed out on the hill.
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:32:00
Further reading since my post yesterday afternoon from O'Hare Airport about the audit of Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's
expense account abuse has only raised my temperature.
Darr REALLY didn't know any better than to spend taxpayer money on personal expenses, including lodging and commuting costs?
Where was he when the state Republican Party's chair, Doyle Webb
, filed a lawsuit over state officials who used state cars for personal use, including a state official who commuted from another county?
whose Republican-leaning staff has been employed by the controlling Republican members as a hit squad on Democrats and other unpopular characters, were pussycats yesterday, quietly and almost apologetically referring the conversion of state money to private use to a prosecutor for a review. But not before Rep. Stephen Meeks
, who claims to be a Tea Party advocate of smaller government spending, expressed sympathy for poor old Mark Darr, elected from Springdale and having to work in Little Rock. Legislators get to pad their pay with bloated expenses, Meeks said. Why shouldn't Darr? Maybe because the Constitution prohibits it.
Another shoe will drop when the state Ethics Commission
takes up campaign expenses Darr charged to taxpayers. along with personal expenses, including for clothing, charged to the campaign. And perhaps we'll then have sufficient details to judge whether Darr did what circumstantial evidence already indicates
— double-charge for some expenses on both campaign and taxpayer accounts.
The situation was bad enough that Darr abruptly abandoned a congressional campaign. He has acknowledged multiple "mistakes." He can do no other against the facts. Republicans really are going to defend him simply because he is one of their own?
Michael Cook's outrage coverage
of this is worth a read.
One would-be successor to Darr, Rep. Andy Mayberry
, was at the meeting and showed no outrage. He merely inquired politely as to whether Darr's staff had now been properly trained. Oh, OK. No foul, then. I don't recall any Democrats defending Martha Shoffner
or Paul Bookout
as rapidly unfolding events led to their prompt resignations after disclosures of their abuse of the public trust.
Being a Republican apparently means not having to resign your office for ethical violations. Or even be asked to say you're sorry to members of the Audit SWAT Team, which was busy elsewhere yesterday bullying a state agency out of taking action against an illegal dam built in Van Buren County. (Admittedly, the state Natural Resources Commission that took the action met illegally itself and has a long history of high-handed actions of its own. It will be left to federal regulators to move against the scofflaw. That the scofflaw turns up as a contributor to Republican political candidate is probably only coincidental to Sen. Bryan King's
use of Audit as a tool against those trying to enforce the law on his unpermitted dam.)
Question for the day: Will the fellow OBU alum that Mark Darr appointed to the state Ethics Commission, William Bird, participate in reviewing his case next week?
Has the Republican Party, Legislative Audit and Mark Darr no shame? He should resign. Yesterday. Given his inability to make restitution to date — and given his many other financial woes, including at one time a defaulted mortgage (hey, maybe nobody told him the law required you to make payments on mortgages), you can guess why he might be hanging on so hard to an office he has dishonored.
Staggering hypocrisy at work here.
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:06:00
I'm back at work after a long hiatus and a little unsure about everything that's been reported in my absence. This broke in New Mexico news a couple of days ago, but I thought I'd mention that ...
David Barden, one of the Palmetto state posse hired for fat jobs under the founding leadership of Ernie Passailaigue at the Arkansas Lottery, has been hired to be interim leader of the New Mexico lottery. The Albuquerque Journal reports at some length on some of the expense and pay-related controversies that attended Barden in Arkansas before the abrupt departure of Ernie P. and his pals.
Among other explanations, Barden claimed he was always working on the dozens of days he spent in South Carolina and Maine while not taking formal leave from his job in Little Rock.
More Arkansas Blog
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 09:12:00
FINAL SHOW AT DOWNTOWN MUSIC HALL
8 p.m. Downtown Music Hall.
Over the last 20 years or so, I've seen venues come and go. Ask anyone who has ever put his or her own ass on the line to make a great show happen and that person will undoubtedly testify that it is a fickle, nerve-wracking, even cruel business. But for every shady promoter who rips off bands or fans, there are exponentially more who are just true-blue music lovers at heart who saw a need and tried to fulfill it.
And so it is that another Arkansas venue will be closing its doors. Downtown Music Hall
has, for the better part of a decade, provided a home to the area's metal, hardcore, hip-hop and dance scenes. It's a shame that it's closing, but I really believe the odds are good that owner Samantha Allen will be back before long to continue booking shows and doing what she loves. This final night at Downtown Music will, quite appropriately, be one that'll have heads banging and eardrums ringing.
The lineup is Seahag, Napalm Christ, Iron Tongue, Crankbait
and Jungle Juice
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:59:00
KINGSDOWN TOYS FOR TOTS CHRISTMAS PARTY
8:30 p.m. Revolution. $5 and a toy or $10.
Man, outside of the realm of utter tragedy there's just not a whole lot that's sadder than the thought of a little boy or girl not getting a Christmas present. How many bow-tied, wrapping-paper covered packages did you tear through as a kid without a second thought? Can you imagine not getting a single one just because things are tough for your folks and they straight-up can't afford it? That's why Toys For Tots exists, to try to make sure that every child has something to look forward to on Christmas.
The guys in Kingsdown
have done a Toys For Tots benefit for the last five years. So make sure and bring a new, unwrapped toy or, heck, bring two or three. If it could make one little kid's Christmas a little happier it'd be worth it. Plus there's the rock music for you to enjoy, which will include Kingsdown, natch, as well as Stereo Down
, students from the House of Melody
music school in Sherwood and Nashville rockers Advocate
. It's an all-ages show.
Friday, December 13, 2013 - 07:48:00
10 p.m. Juanita's. $25 adv., $28 day of.
Though she's still definitely young at 25, singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves
is nonetheless a veteran performer, having been onstage and writing songs since she was in grade school. She was a contestant on "Nashville Star," and while she didn't win, it did open doors for her, including an opening spot on tour with Lady Antebellum and a deal with Mercury Records.
On her debut single, "Merry Go 'Round," Musgraves sketches a picture of small-town life that's miles away from the sort of small-town hagiography so many contemporary country performers indulge in. In the narrator's hometown, "Mama's hooked on Mary Kay / Brother's hooked on Mary Jane / And Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down." The song offers other sharp observations about how the small-town life isn't necessarily all that healthy.
The title of the album — "Same Trailer, Different Park" — is also a sly riff on this theme. Elsewhere on the album, specifically the follow-up single "Blowin' Smoke" and the double-standard debunking "Follow Your Arrow," she continues to cast a skeptical eye on the world of everyday middle America. She certainly seems to have good instincts not only for pop-country songwriting, but also for distinguishing herself in a crowded field of other up-and-comers.
Opening this show will be John & Jacob
and Rodge Arnold
More Rock Candy