University of Arkansas officials celebrated a Fayetteville prosecutor’s determination that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges related to the monumental fiasco in the UA’s advancement division.
There wasn’t much to cheer. The review only further reiterated what has long been known:
The UA relied on largely secretive private foundation money to square accounts every year. People who are paid BIG bucks to be accounting experts engaged in all manner of sloppy and ill-advised financial practices. University officials resisted press inquiries repeatedly, though perhaps not to illegal extremes.
Feel better about your university?
I note this point on the question of destruction of records, as reported in the Democrat-Gazette today:
“With the possible exception of foundation payment authorization forms … there is no evidence that any records relevant to our examination, needed for the audit or subject to an [Freedom of Information Act] request were disposed of,” wrote Bercaw.
Original payment-authorization forms dating back to 2009 were stored electronically at the UA Foundation, Bercaw said.
It appears to me that Deputy Prosecutor David Bercaw moved subtly here to support business at usual at the UA — a business practice that is guaranteed to create future problems.
He appears to confirm that payment authorization forms WERE destroyed (as sources had told me earlier and as university officials had seemed to dispute). But, no problem, he said. See, parallel records are available at the private UA Foundation. That’s not a good explanation. Those records are closed to public inspection.
This is the same rigamarole used to shield many of the sensitive workings of the UA Athletic Department colossus. Most of its money — raised through premium ticket prices — is laundered through the Razorback Foundation. It holds itself secret and unaccountable to the public. Bercaw, it so happens, once worked for the Ball and Mourton law firm in Fayetteville. I note the coincidence only because lead partner Kenneth Mourton is a Razorback Foundation board member and often the person to whom I’m referred when stonewalled there about foundation finances.
Chancellor David Gearhart may have been “pleased” at the announcement yesterday, as the D-G indicated, but there’s not much here to cheer about except years of deficit spending and sloppy oversight by some well-paid people who operate in a shadowy realm where accountability came only from tireless newspaper reporting, an extended legislative audit process (marred by holes in university records) and now a prosecutor’s review. This, the current UA student body president thinks, is somehow unfair. Which raises some questions about education being handed out on the hill.