The UA gravy train open line | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The UA gravy train open line

Posted By on Tue, Jan 21, 2014 at 4:22 PM

The line is open. I close with some material submitted from people at UA.

* DID YOU HEAR WHAT GEARHART SAID? A state prosecutor continues to review the fact that witnesses differ on what Chancellor David Gearhart said at the famous Jan. 14 staff meeting. When he was quoted as saying "get rid of" documents, did he refer to documents covered in a pending FOI request? Did he really say "get rid of"? Did he just mean to say he was sick to death of dealing with newspaper reporters and the information they wanted? Accounts vary among people who were in the room, with people no longer employed tending to support versions adverse to Gearhart.

John Diamond, the fired university relations official, has put together an interesting chart on changes in pay of everyone who was in that Jan. 14 meeting with Gearhart and remain on university payroll.  

* UA AND PERSONNEL RULES: The author of a blog on transparency at UA points me to a post about shortcomings in the delay of audits required of the workforce on equal employment issues. The author says the reports show the university has not done required audits of pay increases, as Diamond has alleged. Where figures have been compiled on the composition of the workforce, it is flawed, the author contends.

I heard late this afternoon from UA spokesman Mark Rushing in response to Diamond's allegations, mentioned early this morning, that positions had been filled without being posted and pay raises granted without proper review. The accusations are the "latest round of false allegations," Rushing said, and he specifically said that a couple of recent promotions I'd asked about had been posted and subject to office of equal opportunity review. He also responded to an e-mail I published in which a university official made a remark last summer about not wanting to create "FOIable" documents.

I talked with Barbara Abercrombie this afternoon about the comment she made in an email dated July 24. She said the one sentence response was "a flippant, off-the-cuff comment" made after nearly eight months of FOIArequests. She admitted she was being a bit of a "smart aleck."

* VETS HOME: The Arkansas Veterans Commission today recommended a site in North Little Rock as the spot for a new veterans home. The former home in Little Rock was closed because of its decrepit condition. Cissy Rucker, director of the state Department of Veterans Affairs, will make the final decision on site selection. She said several issues, including federal funding, must be resolved before a decision.

* GREEDY POLITICIANS: Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife have been indicted for taking thousands of dollars in gifts from a political donor who sought special treatment from state government. A reader wants me to draw the obvious parallel. Arkansas once had a governor who took a house full of furniture from a contributor. Who accepted plane rides from the operator of a home for troubled children who previously had had difficulties with state regulators. Who was on a regular dole of doughnuts and Dillard's gift certificates from a pharmaceutical researcher later appointed to a prestigious state commission. Who solicited speaking fees from groups with political interests (think tobacco). Whose wife was in line for contributions from a state commission to send her off with some fancy state china, until a certain nasty blog blew the whistle. But no, I won't do it. I won't be talked into dredging up the past just to score an easy point. Just put me down as whistling "Moon River." McDonnell insists he did nothing illegal in return for gifts, by the way. And it could be true. Being a sleazy boodler is not necessarily a crime.

* POLICE SEARCH: A police search for a criminal suspect — in a murder case according to various accounts — sent police door to door near Evergreen and Cleveland in Little Rock this afternoon. This prompted precautions at nearby schools — Hall and Forest Heights — with extra security and lockdowns. Reports focused on lockdowns at the schools, though there's no indication the schools are involved except by virtue of being located nearby.

UPDATE: There is a school angle. The search began at Hall High. Said the LRPD:

School Resource Officers at Hall High School received a call from detectives in reference to a wanted subject. The SRO's pulled the juvenile subject from class and waited for detectives to arrive. Before detectives arrived the juvenile subject fled the building. The subject is not in custody. Although the officer [involved in the search] mentioned capital murder warrants, it is unknown if this subject was the person wanted.

Forest Heights Middle School and Hall High School went on voluntary lock down and the school district followed their protocol All students were dismissed without incident.

LRPD added later that the student was wanted for questioning in an unspecified homicide that happened last year.

Another update: The juvenile is wanted for questioning on an attempted murder and robbery case.

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