UCA backscratches 

UCA backscratches

Another tidbit from the University of Central Arkansas.

We've reported before how tightly Conway Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker is wrapped in UCA affairs. His kid got special private housing on campus and UCA provided a setup crew and tent for Baker's  campaign fund-raiser at UCA trustee Michael Stanton's house.

Turns out UCA also sent a little money Baker's way, to help him on a private job.


Foundation work

Senator Baker worked for the Tom Burnett Family Foundation for six months in 2006 and 2007. This was the foundation established in memory of the passenger on hijacked flight United 93, whose widow, Deena, now lives in Arkansas.

Baker was paid $20,000 in 2006 for working, according to foundation tax forms, 40 hours a week. “My responsibilities were to raise money and to get their character curriculum into high schools,” Baker said.

That's a pretty healthy sum given that the foundation raised only $37,796 in 2006. The foundation's activities that year consisted of the award of two scholarships, worth $9,000.

A review of UCA Foundation records shows that $2,000 of the money raised came from the UCA Foundation. Those records show that President Lu Hardin requested the contribution and directed that it be sent to Gilbert Baker's home. Baker said he solicited UCA's donation to help create a Burnett scholarship at the university. The Burnett Foundation also contributed $10,000.

Baker said he became executive director after meeting Deena Burnett, who had married businessman Rodney Bailey and moved to Arkansas from Minnesota. In 2006, Burnett told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she had been approached to run for Congress or Arkansas lieutenant governor. She spoke at UCA this past April and was introduced by Baker.

“Given how busy he was during the time-frame he worked for the foundation, I believe he was successful” at fund-raising, Burnett wrote in an e-mail. “He certainly fulfilled the terms of his contract under which he was hired. He was paid a total of $24,000 over a 6-month period and if memory serves me ... he raised $38,000 through various fund-raising dinners and a direct mail piece.”


Baker departs

Baker said he left the foundation when members of Tom Burnett's family, some of whom live in Minnesota, decided they wanted a change. “I was hired with an anticipation of stepping up their fund-raising and outreach, but it turned out that they didn't want to go in that direction,” Baker said. “We were trying to reorganize and get set up with an Arkansas base, but the family felt that it was better to keep it focused in Minnesota.”

Burnett said Baker was not rehired for several reasons: He was too busy with a state Senate session, and others in the otherwise all-volunteer foundation felt that the non-profit shouldn't be paying salaries. “Gilbert was also head of the Arkansas Republican party and one of our board members was not aware of that position when he was hired,” Burnett added. “[The board member] was not comfortable with that title and was afraid it would reflect a political status upon the foundation.”

Uh, yeah.



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