Both the Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media have setup articles today on the legislative hearing Tuesday at which a public airing will finally be given to all key disputants in the controversy over the deficit-ridden University of Arkansas fund-raising division and Chancellor David Gearhart’s efforts to, at a minimum, contain PR fallout.
I’m guessing few big surprises remain to be uncovered. Fund-raising, once Gearhart’s purview, was a sloppy bookkeeping mess and largely unaccountable because of an unholy linkup with the private UA Foundation, but no evidence of criminal activity has yet emerged. Well except in the coverup phase when Gearhart gave sworn legislative testimony on document destruction at direct variance with at least some other witnesses to a fateful staff meeting last January. Ousted UA spokesman John Diamond’s argument that Gearhart resisted full openness remains a credible charge, even if no perjury was committed or legally-sought documents destroyed
Here’s one more little angle I hope legislators explore: The immense pressure the university can bring to bear on its employees.
Diamond says participants in the January meeting at which some have said Gearhart told staffers to “get rid of” budget documents were summoned to interviews in September with four University lawyers. Also present was — !?! — a private lawyer for Gearhart.
Diamond says all were told they should feel no pressure because of this assembly of public and private lawyers and that they weren’t required to participate if they had any discomfort. You can imagine how comforting those words might be to someone whose continued livelihood depended on staying in good graces with the university. University lawyers also reportedly were present when some of the witnesses gave their accounts to a Fayetteville prosecutor. Again, no pressure. Just like there was no pressure applied by UA before a previous legislative committee abruptly truncated a meeting at which the fired Advancement Division chief, Brad Choate, was scheduled to give his side of the story. He’s on the agenda Tuesday.