David Gearhart, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, is going to come clean after a fashion.
A university news release says he has asked the Legislative Audit and University of Arkansas to each do an independent audit of the UA Advancement Division, where the discovery of a budget spending at a rate almost $5 million out of whack (efforts to stem the red ink reduced the deficit to $3.3 million) led to the effective sacking (at full pay) of the top of the division and demotion of another UA employee.
Until now, the UA has been reluctant to release full details about what went wrong, particularly in precisely who was paid how much and for what so far in excess of budget. Most recently, Gearhart and the UA legal team was roundly criticized here and elsewhere for claiming the university’s own internal audit wasn’t subject to disclosure because it constituted the personnel record of the ousted executive.
Gearhart continues to defend the secrecy as legal, but says those documents will be released to auditors. Will the auditors eventually release them? In Legislative Audit’s case, it depends on whether they believe the required release of all audit working papers after completion of an audit includes items otherwise exempt under the FOI. If you believe an internal audit is a personnel record, which I don’t, they might not. Given that the secrecy protection asserted for UAF came from the same legal eagles who support most UA attempts to keep secrets, such as details about Walton giving, I wouldn’t expect expansiveness from that audit quarter. Legislative Audit has also shown itself susceptible to political suasion in recent months.
An audit finding that no criminal laws were broken, but WITHOUT release of documents that allow the public to know exactly what happened, is not a sufficient resolution of this issue. Three secret audits are no better than one secret audit.
The news release: