Friday, December 20, 2013

First draft of history: Reference to Gearhart and document edited from final report

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 2:02 PM

click to enlarge GOTTEN RID OF: A statement by Chancellor Gearhart
  • GOTTEN RID OF: A statement by Chancellor Gearhart

I wrote this morning about evidence Fayetteville Prosecutor David Bercaw's gathered in the investigation of the University of Arkansas Advancement Division mess. The case file shows that witnesses said that Chancellor David Gearhart had said at a Jan. 14 meeting to "get rid" of a budget-related document. This, as well as other evidence, contradicted many earlier university statements about shredding of budget documents.

But more important is the contradiction in those statements with Gearhart's sworn testimony before Legislative Audit: “I have never said to anybody that they should destroy documents. "

The contradiction now will be reviewed by the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney, although Bercaw's office told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette yesterday that it had found no evidence of perjury.

John Diamond, whose disagreements with Gearhart about accountability got him fired (Diamond said he favored more disclosure by UA, Gearhart less) made an FOI request for the prosecutor's working papers. It has been filled and it included a draft of Bercaw's final report, which he'd given to a deputy for feedback and editing. Diamond provided it to me.  Here's the PDF of that draft. The excerpt above is on page 13 of the PDF. The PDF includes some handwritten notes that were also in the file, which Diamond provides to show that the editing notes in the draft seem to have been written in Bercaw's hand.

It's interesting stuff, with many phrases — some editorial in nature and cutting in several directions — omitted.  But most interesting to Diamond is a deletion you see in the snapshot above:

Apparently Chancellor Gearhart asked why documents were being created and to get rid of it.

Though the final version of the report dwelt at some length with whether that document had been sought under an FOI request (and prosecutors concluded it had not) it didn't address the obvious conflict between Gearhart's sworn testimony about document destruction generally and that of eyewitnesses as to the specific document at the Jan. 14 meeting. Why take out that potent reference?

I've sent a question to Bercaw about who eliminated the reference and why. Diamond commented:

The sentence doesn't show guilt or perjury; however, it does show that whoever drafted the report had concluded that witnesses' statements re "get rid of" were convincing enough to include in their report. 

And then it wasn't.

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