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. 

GEARHART'S WAR WITH THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

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: , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

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…

  • Auditor Lea caught not telling the truth

    State Auditor Andrea Lea, who began her tenure in statewide office with a degree of competence unseen in some other Republican counterparts (think Treasurer Dennis Milligan particularly), is becoming more deeply mired in a political scandal.
    • Mar 4, 2016
  • Latest Obamacare repeal bill would hit Arkansas treasury hard

    The latest effort to undo Obamacare, the Graham-Cassidy legislation, would shift federal support for health coverage to a block grant system to the states. Bad news for Arkansas.
    • Sep 18, 2017
  • Another Republican miracle-working governor

    Great piece in Washington Post on the budget crisis in Louisiana. Big tax cuts and corporate welfare will do that to a state, particularly to a state whose previous governor, Republican Bobby Jindal, refused to join the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion. There's a lesson there for Arkansas.
    • Mar 4, 2016

Most Shared

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation