Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Following the money at Arkansas State University; who got improper discounts?

Posted By on Tue, Dec 16, 2014 at 6:50 AM

click to enlarge LONNIE WILLIAMS: Discounts given by ASU administrator cited in audit.
  • LONNIE WILLIAMS: Discounts given by ASU administrator cited in audit.
Legislative Audit released its review of Arkansas State University finances yesterday and it included a report on a topic suggested for review by ASU's internal auditor concerning student housing discounts given by Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lonnie Williams.

The report concluded:

Student housing discounts totaling $39,244 were authorized for 12 students who were not dependents of an ASU System employee, in violation of the ASU System Staff Handbook and without ASU Board of Trustee approval, during the period July 1, 2006 through May 31, 2014. Dr. Williams stated that he authorized eight of the 12 discounts totaling $32,087. Because of a scholarship one of the eight students received, $2,738 of this student’s housing discount was returned to or remained in the General Scholarship Fund. As a result, $29,349 of housing revenue was not collected due to the eight ineligible discounts improperly authorized by Dr. Williams. IA was unable to substantiate who authorized the remaining four discounts totaling $7,157.

IA recommended that Dr. Williams reimburse $29,349 to the University for housing revenue not collected as a result of improper authorizations. As of report date, Dr. Williams has reimbursed $325 via payroll deductions.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Williams, who makes more than $132,000 a year, will also be able to pay off this money by giving up accrued leave time. Not exactly painful.

What's absent from the audit report and additional reporting is who got the favors and why. Remember UCA in the Lu Hardin days? Kids of legislators and other prominent insiders received scholarships and special housing treatment.

A full disclosure on this from ASU should include more on the circumstances. Without it, it's hard to know if giving up some accrued leave time is sufficient punishment for $30,000 in publicly financed favors. I've asked for more information.

A spokesman, so far, has said only that the favors went to "underrepresented minorities" and were unrelated to trustees or legislators. He also said Williams will have $108.52 deducted from his check each pay period (twice a month) and pay off the rest, if any remains, from leave time or lump sum restitution. At that rate, it's going to take a while, more than 11 years, to pay down $30,000.

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