Oops. Hardin story just grew new legs UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Oops. Hardin story just grew new legs UPDATE

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 2008 at 4:25 PM

This breaking news from Stephens Media:

LITTLE ROCK - University of Central Arkansas President Lu Hardin asked the UCA board for early payment of a $300,000 bonus that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has since said likely violated state law, according to documents obtained by the Arkansas News Bureau.

The documents show Hardin also asked, rather than increase in pay, for an additional $150,000 annually in deferred compensation and advised the board it did not have to disclose the action publicly.

Hardin says today he asked for the pay boost only after board members asked him to suggest a compensation package that would be consistent with what top officials at comparable universities receive.

Hardin returned the bonus money, less taxes, last week and said today the board did not act on his deferred compensation request. He said he regrets advising the board it could act without public disclosure and in the future will advise openness.

"Even if it's deferred compensation, it will be with total transparency," he said.

UPDATE: Here's the revised story from Stephens Media.

Most obvious question among several raised by this bulletin: Does Hardin have another $150,000 deferred comp plan in the works on top of the one paid out early? ANSWER: Apparently not now, emphasis on now.

Here's what I've found out. Board Chairman Randy Sims asked Hardin what it would take for him to commit to a long-term contract at UCA. Hardin responded in the letter, written in March, that compared his pay with those of several other collegiate leaders, including UA officials. He said he'd like early payment of the $300,000 in deferred comp and a total salary of about $400,000, about $150,000 more than the current statutory maximum payable as deferred compensation. The letter was accompanied by a memo saying that the deferred comp, if approved along with the early payment of the earlier deferred comp plan, approved in 2005, could be done in secret. The memo carried the names of three UCA administrators, but was unsigned.

Resistance arose on the Board to approving the pay raise, as well as to the early payment of the $300,000 in deferred comp. Even trustees who believe Hardin is vital to UCA's recent growth, objected to the early payment because of how it would be received by faculty, who were to receive no pay raise.

But the Board forged ahead. It approved the $300,000 bonus. It also approved the $150,000 pay, I was told, subject to its being held to be a legal payment and subject to finding a source of money to pay for it. That increase has never been paid, however. It turns out, the Board had no legal source for the $300,000 bonus to begin with, much less the additional money. It wanted to use bookstore and restaurant profits, which are public funds under the law and unusable for payment in excess of legal limits. Private funds may be used for a supplement.

The Board continued to work on a six-year contract for Hardin that also was to include some other benefits, including a year paid sabbatical. At one time, that contract was expected to be discussed at Friday's UCA Board meeting. That is not likely now.

The Stephens story was generated by a release of documents by UCA Trustee Dr. Michael Stanton, who's apparently grown weary of the drama and was a part of a Board minority that was resistant to some of the steps taken in May's closed Board meeting on the Hardin contract. This perhaps was intended as clarification and air-clearing, but smells like more smog to me.

More when I have it.

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