UA trustees pass resolution supporting Gearhart, accept audit reports

Posted: January 24, 2014 at 8:49 a.m.
Updated: January 24, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.

UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart, right, addresses the board of trustees Friday alongside Don Pederson, UA Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, shortly after the board voted for a resolution in support of Gearhart.

The University of Arkansas board of trustees voted unanimously Friday morning first for a resolution supporting UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart and then to accept a pair of investigative audit reports into a multimillion dollar deficit.

The vote for Gearhart came after board chairman Jane Rogers read a letter lauding Gearhart for taking "full responsibility" and looking to make improvements in the aftermath of a multimillion-dollar deficit in the fundraising division of the Fayetteville campus.

"Our board is committed to financial accountability and freedom of information," Rogers said. "I recognize that this has been a difficult episode for the university and I pledge that the university can and will do a better job in the future. At the same time, I recognize the many wonderful accomplishments that have occurred across the campus."

The board, meeting at UAMS Medical Center, later voted without discussion to approve a unanimous vote a day earlier from the four-member audit committee to accept two investigative reports into the Advancement Division's $4.2 million deficit: one from the University of Arkansas System auditors and another from the Arkansas Legislative Audit Division.

UA officials have blamed former fundraising chief Brad Choate and budget officer Joy Sharp for the deficit in the department, though Choate told legislators he was a scapegoat for larger, systemic financial problems at the university. Both Choate and Sharp lost their jobs after the deficit came to light.

The Washington County prosecutor investigated the deficit and found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. But in Pulaski County, the prosecutor is reportedly still reviewing a legislative meeting on the topic last year in which UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart said under oath that he did not order public documents destroyed and former UA spokesman John Diamond, also under oath, said Gearhart did.

Donald Pederson, UA vice chancellor for finance and administration, told trustees Thursday that some changes to budgetary processes recommended by auditors have been put in place and the rest will be implemented by June 30, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.