Official secrets: Exxon and the University of Arkansas | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Official secrets: Exxon and the University of Arkansas

Posted By on Wed, Sep 25, 2013 at 7:37 AM

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports on a couple of continuing and depressingly familiar themes this morning:

* EXXONMOBIL: It has worked out a deal with Central Arkansas Water to share some pipeline information in a way that CAW can see it but the public cannot. A public agency can't agree to an illegal contract. It cannot agree — legally anyway — to withhold documents it receives if they are otherwise subject to disclosure. CAW says it wants openness and will protect the public's interest. If delivery on the promise depends on Exxon's good faith, consider that promise broken.

click to enlarge DID HE OR DIDN'T HE? If UA Chancellor David Gearhart talked to UA Board about an audit, why isn't it in the minutes? Could it be because the FOI wouldn't allow such a discussion in secret?
  • DID HE OR DIDN'T HE? If UA Chancellor David Gearhart talked to UA Board about an audit, why isn't it in the minutes? Could it be because the FOI wouldn't allow such a discussion in secret?
* THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS: The daily newspaper reported more omissions — millions of unreported subsidies from the UA Foundation — in past UA accounts of the financial finagling necessary to balance the books of the Advancement Division. Who can blame the UA? They've always been generally unanswerable to the public. The UA Foundation and the Razorback Foundation have always been honey holes for whatever spending the six-figure UA nabobs desired. Who knew somebody would blow the whistle over a continuation of this long-standing practice,which included deficit spending of current Chancellor David Gearhart when he was leading the advancement division.

We haven't gotten to the bottom of the UA cesspool yet.

One more example, if the law — as in the Freedom of Information Act — means anything to you. Events beginning in 2012:

Oct. 19 — UA Treasurer Jean Schook reports internally to Gearhart on a lack of financial controls in management at the advancement division.

Oct. 25 — Schook and Gearhart  UA finance chief Don Pederson meet with legislative auditors. They say nothing about the Schook report.

Nov. 2 — The UA Board of Trustees meets in a closed executive session. Minutes of that session make no mention of a discussion of  advancement division chief Brad Choate or his budget officer, Joy Sharp, or an audit of that division.

Nov. 6 — Gearhart gives Choate the boot.

Dec. 3 — Choate's removal becomes public because Arkansas Business blows the whistle on problems in the division.

Feb. 5, 2013 — With matters spinning out of coverup control,  Gearhart requests a state audit. He also, according to the fired John Diamond, instructs staff to stop generating documents that can be discovered under the FOI and to get rid of old ones. (He denies this.)

Feb. 24, 2013 — From the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:

On Nov. 2, Gearhart met with university trustees and Bobbitt in a closed session to talk about the Advancement Division’s financial problems. In an interview later, the chancellor said they talked ‘about asking university system auditors to come in. In discussing it with Dr. Bobbitt and members of the board, they didn’t feel it was necessary to do it.

Get it?  Gearhart seems to have revealed, inadvertently in covering himself, an FOI violation. He says he discussed matters with the board of trustees that couldn't properly be discussed in private — an audit of a university division. He also revealed discussion of subjects not mentioned then as matters discussed by the trustees. If, that is, his account in February to the D-G was accurate.

Critical questions:

* Did Gearhart or anyone tell the UA Board at that Nov. 2 meeting about Schook's Oct. 19 report? 

* Did UA Board decide against an audit knowing about the Schook report?

* If the Board made such a "decision," why isn't it reflected in minutes?

More than David Gearhart is hanging in the wind here.

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