Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
UA trustee's UA deal
Mike Akin of Monticello, a member of the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees, has gone into for-profit business with the University of Arkansas at Monticello, an institution that he helps supervise. B. Alan Sugg, president of the University of Arkansas System, said that Akin's agreement with UAM didn't violate UA policy governing conflicts of interest by trustees, because Akin revealed the potential conflict and didn't vote when the Board approved the agreement.
This is not Akin's first time to do business with a state agency while serving as a member of a related board. In 2000, while he was a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, he accepted financial incentives from the state Department of Economic Development in exchange for his Monticello furniture manu-facturing plant taking over a Dumas plant whose previous owner had shut it down. That arrangement was criticized both because of Akin's membership on the AEDC, which advises the Department of Economic Development, and because Akin's Monticello plant was already operating in Arkansas. DED grants are generally intended to bring new industry to the state. After Akin Industries took over the Dumas plant, production employees there were given a 7.5 percent pay cut.
Akin is no longer a member of the AEDC. He was appointed to a 10-year term on the UA Board of Trustees by then-Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2003.
In January this year, the UA Board approved an agreement between UAM and Grand Manor LLC, in which Akin is a principal. Grand Manor is leasing about six acres from UAM on which it plans to build a private retirement complex. The project apparently would be similar to one at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. The UCA complex has lost almost $700,000 since it opened in 2003, and come under criticism from legislators.
Grand Manor is leasing the property for 50 years. It's making an initial payment of $100,000 to UAM, and then will pay $10,000 a year or one percent of gross revenue. UAM Chancellor Jack Lassiter said construction was expected to begin in late summer or early fall. Akin did not respond to a call from the Times.
The UA Board's policy on trustee conflict of interest does not prohibit conflict. It merely says that a trustee must disclose any conflict and "abstain from voting on or influencing transactions where a conflict of interest exists." The policy also includes protection for trustees with conflicts of interest:
"A conflict of interest transaction is not voidable or the basis for imposing liability on the trustee if either of the following is true: (1) The transaction was fair to the University at the time it was entered into; (2) The material facts of the transaction and the trustee's interest were disclosed or known to the Board and the Board authorized, approved or ratified the transaction."