My, people were busy on computers last night. A mailbox summary:
CONSULTANT DEAL: The web was humming with comments, including from a state legislator, about the curious decision UAMS made to put a departed financial officer, Melony Goodhand, on a $312,000 consulting deal for a year after she reportedly took a job in Tennessee. Paying through the private UAMS Foundation has triggered all sorts of alarm bells. Why not do a straight-up deal where the public can see? Money spent from the foundation, in the end, is an offset of money otherwise available for public use. UAMS saying they didn’t know — and don’t apparently care for you to know — where Goodhand took a new job is a little strange. How do they get in touch? Is it a don’t-call-me-I’ll-call-you kind of $312K consulting deal? Is she working for another health entity that might figure in the ongoing drama about outsourcing part of UAMS, a public institution, to another health institution, St. Vincent, whose services will be defined (restricted) by church orders? A lot of suspicion, not many answers. UAMS needs to disclose more. Based on Twitter last night, at least one important legislator sounds like he might be poised to ask the question.
UPDATE Make that several legislators with questions on Twitter about this arrangement. Also: Goodhand completed a law degree at UALR while working for UAMS at $300,000 a year. It’s another topic critics of the new deal want to explore. UAMS has told me, however, that it did not bear the expense of the UALR law degree. In response to other questions, Leslie Taylor of UAMS said:
* ABOUT CONTACTING SOMEONE WHOSE WHEREABOUTS ARE UNKNOWN:
UAMS is able to contact Melony by cell phone and email. She has said she will be available when needed to answer questions and share knowledge she obtained as CFO. Her employment ended just five days ago and although she initially declined to share the name of her new employer, I’m sure she will be sharing that and her mailing address with HR once she has completed her move. I can provide you with letters between Dr. Rahn and Melony regarding this agreement.
* ABOUT THE NEED FOR A CONTRACT THROUGH A PRIVATE SOURCE, NOT FULLY SUBECT TO THE SAME SCRUTINY AS A DIRECT ARRANGEMENT WITH UAMS:
There is nothing to hide. Chancellor Rahn and Melony came to a mutual agreement regarding her position. Under the terms of that agreement when her employment ended she agreed to be available to answer questions from people still at UAMS for a period of a year and to share information and knowledge she acquired while at UAMS to help ensure a smooth transition to a new CFO. This will be especially helpful during our budget process which begins soon. She also agreed to abide by a noncompete clause. This is not part of a consulting contract and I erred in using the word consultant yesterday.
* ABOUT THE LAW SCHOOL DEGREE GOODHAND EARNED WHILE A HIGHLY PAID UAMS EXEC:
I don’t have access to her calendar but it is my understanding she took the majority of her classes at night. Under UAMS policy, employees can take one course a semester during the work day if they have permission from their supervisor. Dr. Wilson was chancellor when Melony was in law school. As head of a university, he was supportive of her pursuit of a graduate degree and she had permission from him for any daytime courses she took.
* SEX SCANDALS: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson have been reliably reported to have become pals of late, despite their differing party labels. No wonder. They can compare notes about embarrassment caused by former girlfriends. They can also compare notes about mounting evidence of lingering official complications from those relationships. In McDaniel’s case, it’s more details about the nexus of legal cases in which both Hot Springs lawyer Andi Davis and the attorney general’s office had roles. Plus, there are lingering questions about the shooting death of a Hot Springs man at Davis’ home that guarantees continuing news coverage. In Hutchinson’s case, it’s the pending legal action against his former girlfriend, Julie McGee, and the record she’s kept of their long relationship. She isn’t happy. She says his support for her went beyond two checks written from his campaign account, recently the subject of an Ethics Commission fine of the senator. She is aggrieved and you know what they say about women scorned. Particularly scorned women with tape recorders. Hutchinson will challenge her credibility, naturally. But McGee has proven correct on her benefit from campaign cash, if stories differ on how that came to pass. If a prosecution moves forward of the assault complaint Hutchinson made against her, McGee has made it clear to me that her version of events that night will differ from his. Sworn testimony from both would be riveting, beginning with why the senator thought it a good idea to take a “former girlfriend” out to his Chenal condo.
* CABLE TELEVISION (oh, yeah, and phone and Internet for many): I noticed on Twitter last night comments from unhappy Comcast customers still out of service since the Christmas Day storm. Comcast has been stingy with information about its problems, unlike Entergy. Entergy, it should be noted, is a highly regulated utility. Comcast, which operates under a franchise agreement with LIttle Rock, is pretty well untouchable by regulators as the city’s ineffective efforts to seek accountability has proven. More to come on that story, I’d judge from mail I’ve received. (A program note: Comcast on-demand service faithfully provided viewing of BBC’s fine “The Hour” on my time schedule. Friends with ATT’s TV service can’t get BBC on-demand, they tell me.)
* THE KOCH EMPIRE: I mentioned yesterday that Teresa Oelke of Rogers, who heads the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity organization in Arkansas, had been tapped for a high national position with the lobby group. (And I mightily upset her friends with a little pun by referring to the head of a Koch-financed organization as a “Kochhead.”) But she was kind enough to tell David Ramsey of the Times what the new national post means regards her activities in Arkansas:
I am staying in Arkansas. I will likely bring on a new or an assistant State Director. I am very invested in AFP’s work in Arkansas and do not foresee that changing despite the new role.
Officially, I am acting as Interim VP of State Operations pending a vote of the full board.
For Freedom & Liberty,
Vice President of State Operations