Brad Choate: Says UA 'snookered' legislative auditors. John Diamond describes Gearhart anger and freeze-out of newspaper | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Brad Choate: Says UA 'snookered' legislative auditors. John Diamond describes Gearhart anger and freeze-out of newspaper

Posted By on Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 2:18 PM

click to enlarge UA PANEL: Close quarters for opposing points of view. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • UA PANEL: Close quarters for opposing points of view.

The legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee has begun hearing from six University of Arkansas officials and former employees in its review of financial problems in the fund-raising Advancement Division.

First up is the fired Advancement Division leader, Brad Choate, getting his first chance to speak publicly. He says UA "snookered" legislative auditors. He says he was "sacrificed" by Chancellor David Gearhart. This follows on themes others have advanced that deficit spending was a fact of life in Advancement, settled up by funds raised for the private UA Foundation in a practice dating back to Gearhart's time as head of the division.

As the picture above shows, the legislature made it uncomfortable for all, arraying six people at a single table, with Geahart and Choate, once friends, side by side.

In the picture, at left, you have three people still working at the UA — Don Pederson, vice chancellor for finance and administration; Jean Schook, vice chancellor for financial affairs, and Gearhart. Then you have Choate; John Diamond, the former vice chancellor for university relations who's insisted Gearhart fought greater disclosure, and (out of the picture in red) Joy Sharp, the former advancement division budget director who's not spoken previously through prepared statement, as Choate once did, or otherwise. Her work has drawn most of the blame for accounting problems from the Gearhart administration.

John Diamond has repeated his assertion that Gearhart said at a staff meeting about a stack of papers relating to the budget problem: "Get rid of these and don't create anymore." He referred to a "culture of delete and destroy." He delivered a lengthy critique of the UA response to FOI requests. He also spoke of Gearhart's ire at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette over multiple FOI requests. He viewed the newspaper as being out to get him.

But Choate, who was issued a formal subpoena that released him from a no-comment agreement he made with UA when he was discharged, was the star, if that's the word. Benji Hardy reports:

Choate is delivering lengthy testimony, pulling no punches. He criticized U of A adminstrators, board of trustees, legislative auditors. He said UA has "branded" all this as a failure of Advancement, but it's actually "a failure of finance and administration." Said Gearhart, Schook, Pederson intentionally misled auditors in attempt to hide larger systemic failures. He said legislative auditors took Jean Schoolk's word at face value and did not interview him or other key staff directly. "I think the university snookered the legislative auditors." Says that Pulaski co prosecutor needs to look into perjury charge, as Gearhart's testimony last fall was not factual about giving order to get rid of documents."I was sacrificed," he says. 


click to enlarge 'CREDIBILITY GAP': John Diamond sees one at UA. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • 'CREDIBILITY GAP': John Diamond sees one at UA.
I've written before about Gearhart's poor PR efforts in this ongoing controversy. Chief among them has been his long-running prickly relationship with the state's largest news outlet, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It goes beyond Advancement to Gearhart's ill-advised decisions to demean the editorial page in personal op-eds on other topics. I didn't think he was necessarily off-base in his opinions, but it threw an editorial-writing mule into a briar patch. The newspaper's persistent pursuit of the Advancement story, broken by Arkansas Business and touched on some by the Arkansas Blog, really undid him, however.

John Diamond prepared a packet of information, including e-mails, about Gearhart's apparent decision to stop co-operating with the D-G. Diamond thought it was a bad move. Saying "no comment" is like holding a trench coat over your head as you leave a courthouse, Diamond said. He said Gearhart also wanted to set up a webpage highlighting D-G FOI requests, but not those by others. He described new Advancement boss Chris Wyrick's resistance to his plan for a comprehensive response to a major FOI request. Diamond's report is lengthy and fact-filled, but all the more persuasive for all his recall of details and production of specific e-mails. Crimes? I don't know. But I do agree with one of Diamond's summary sentences: "A credibility gap exists and it's damaging to the university and the state."

We'll  have more later. It seems likely to last a while.

Tags: , , , , ,


Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-5 of 5

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Tom Cotton's influence on Trump's new security chief

    U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is getting credit for pushing President Donald Trump to select Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser, Politico reports.
    • Feb 21, 2017
  • Free Zinn book for Arkansas teachers

    Arkansas teachers! Get your free Howard Zinn book here! Whether Kim Hendren likes it or not.
    • Mar 3, 2017


Most Viewed

  • Marijuana makes Harding University grad a billionaire

    Meet a new Arkansas-native billionaire — Michael Blue, who grew up in Searcy and graduated from Harding University. He owes his wealth to marijuana.
  • French Hill carefully vetting crowd for Mike Pence visit

    Mike Pence will appear at a campaign rally for Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill today in Little Rock and the campaign is monitoring carefully who'll be allowed to attend or cover the event. Hill is running a hide-and-seek campaign, making himself available only in safe settings. Maybe 1,200 of the right sort of people will atternd.
  • Are the Razorbacks out of their league?

    Ouch. The Southeastern Conference football schedule hasn't yet begun and the New York Times offers an article suggesting the Arkansas Razorbacks aren't up to playing in the league.
  • Demonstrators, small crowd greet Mike Pence at French Hill rally

    Demonstrators have been allowed near the front door of the Statehouse Convention Center where carefully screened guests, not many, will be enjoying Mike Pence's endorsement of Republican Rep. French Hill. Plenty of security and I think it might be more fun outside.
  • Six Supreme Court justices found to have violated ethics code

    The Arkansas Judicial and Disability Commission has announced the filing of formal charges of ethics violations against six members of the Arkansas Supreme Court for their handling of a case involving Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Most Recent Comments


© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation