Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
It was a good week for ...
UA OFFICIALS UNDER FIRE. On Thursday, David Bercaw, deputy prosecutor for the Fourth Judicial District, released a summary of his investigation into the budget shortfall in the advancement division at the University of Arkansas, finding no evidence of criminal activity. That still leaves lots of questions, not just about financial practices but about the university's questionable approach on public transparency and accountability. But a bipartisan cohort of legislators at a joint audit committee meeting at the Capitol declined to dive deeper, allowing UA Trustee John Goodson to testify but denying ousted advancement employees Brad Choate and Joy Sharp a chance to tell their side of the story. "People here aren't interested in the facts," Choate said.
BIPARTISAN BUDGET DEALS. The budget agreement between Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, which would guide the federal budget into 2015, sailed through the House and got a cloture vote in the Senate, making final passage nearly assured. Reps. Tom Cotton and Rick Crawford and Sen. John Boozman were part of the rump tea party contingent opposing the budget deal.
MARK MARTIN. Circuit Judge Tim Fox dismissed Matt Campbell's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against Secretary of State Mark Martin on Tuesday. The lawsuit originally arose from Campbell's inspection of records on Martin's use of outside legal counsel without first obtaining the statutorily required approval of the attorney general's office. The secretary of state's office first claimed not to have the documents Campbell sought, but provided them after he sued, so Campbell himself (who authors the Blue Hog Report) could be called the overall winner. But on this final matter, over redactions on one document, Martin came out on top. Campbell will appeal.
It was a bad week for ...
MARK DARR. Legislative Audit found that the lieutenant governor had illegally used more than $10,000 in taxpayer money for personal use. Darr pleaded ignorance and said he'll pay back the state. That was enough for Republican allies in the legislature, who greeted Darr only with a few polite questions, in stark contrast to their histrionics over ethical violations of Democrats in recent months. The other shoe may be about to drop — as we go to press, Darr is set to go before the Ethics Commission, which may look into strong circumstantial evidence that Darr double-charged for some expenses on both campaign and taxpayer accounts.
ARKANSAS STATE FOOTBALL. For the third straight season, the Red Wolves found a talented head coach to lead them to a conference title only to have a bigger school snatch him up after just one season. Bryan Harsin is heading to Boise State next year, just as Gus Malzahn left for Auburn after 2012 and Hugh Freeze left for Ole Miss after 2011.