State Rep. Mark Lowery of Maumelle has sent me a copy of a letter he’s written to the legislature’s Joint Performance Review Committee asking it to meet to hear testimony from fired University of Arkansas spokesman John Diamond, fired Advancement Division chief Brad Choate and “any other relevant employees or former employees of the development office of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.”
He said it appears allegations they have made require “further review.” He also says the law gives Joint Performance broad authority to review government operations.
This matter becomes ever harder to recapitulate, but I’ll try. It begins with an ongoing defict in the UA advancement division, what Chancellor David Gearhart knew about it and whether he took steps to resist press efforts to get the facts. Since then:
1) a prosecutor found no ground for charges; 2) Legislative Audit voted Friday to accept a previously released audit report without hearing further testimony, though Choate had been scheduled to speak; 3) Republicans split on hearing more from Choate; 4) Sen. Bill Sample, a UA contractor of pest control services, objected to hearing from Choate; 5) Sample now suggests it was Audit Chair Kim Hammer’s fault that no testimony was heard; 6) Hammer has effectively called B.S. on Sample 7) interpleader lobbyists for UA endeavored to bring an end to continuing criticism of Chancellor David Geardhart by ending legislative review; 7) UA/Gearhart/GOP leadership sycophants say there’s nothing to see here and everyone should move along.
I’ve had cause in the past to speak ill of Lowery, who survived a tough election battle that included some harsh criticism of his activities as a staff member at the University of Central Arkansas, which I bring up mainly to note that he’s part of the state higher education establishment.
However ….. Lowery is right today. Choate should be given a chance to speak. Under oath. Diamond, too. And if Gearhart wants to be heard again about discrepancies in the prosecutorial and audit record noted by Diamond and Choate, let him put his hand on a Bible again, too. And by all means, invite Brother Honky Chris Wyrick, who succeeded Choate (at a much lower salary, Wyrick took pains to note.)
Note that Sen. Jane English and Rep. Terry Rice are co-chairs of Joint Performance. Rice, particularly, is identified with the Republican contingent that expressed unhappiness about the silencing of Choate. It so happens that the contingent tended to come from the same faction that opposed the private option Medicaid expansion, as Rice did. (And many in that contingent opposed the election of Davy Carter over Rice as House speaker.)
When Joint Audit voted on a motion that effectively meant Choate would not be heard, English opposed the motion. Sen. Bruce “Fireball” Holland did not have a recorded vote, the same effect as a yes in the circumstance. Rice has announced his intention to run against Holland in the Republican primary next year.
Thoroughly confused yet?
UPDATE: Lowery says:
The co- chairs have agreed to hold hearings after the first of the year. Schedule obviously will be set based on availability of witnesses – especially Mr. Choate.