The University of Central Arkansas will be subject to an investigation by the Arkansas Ethics Commission after a citizen complaint was brought against UCA President Allen Meadors.
The complaint, filed by Greenbrier resident Carole Lonsway accuses Meadors of “possible abuse of office” by allowing his parents and wife to be transported by university police to and from campus events on seven occasions.
An Arkansas Ethics Commission document, obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, addressed to Meadors, stated that in the investigation, the Commission would determine whether or not he violated Ark. Code Ann. 21-8-304(a), which states that state employees shall not use official positions to secure special privileges or exemptions for his or herself, or family members.
“Briefly stated, the essential allegation of the complaint is that the UCA Police Department provided transportation for your elderly parents to UCA events during 2010,” Graham Sloan, AEC director, wrote.
Lonsway’s complaint form included more than 40 pages of exhibit material containing e-mails between herself and Meadors, FOI requests to the university for e-mails containing reference to Meadors and the use of state-owned vehicles, and UCA community responses to a campuswide e-mail sent from Larry James, chief of UCA Police, in support of the department’s actions.
A letter from Meadors to Sloan, dated Oct. 20, stated that Meadors did not believe he had violated the intent of the Arkansas ethics rules.
Meadors said that the University welcomes hundreds of individuals as specific guests at campus events who are provided with complimentary tickets and other amenities.
“Just because they are my parents, is it felt they should not be afforded the courtesy that others are offered?” Meadors asked Sloan in the letter.
Meadors said that he believes his parents have assisted the university by making valuable contacts with potential investors, donors and alumni, and should therefore be identified as guests of the university.
“Individuals who support the university in these fashions or even to a lesser degree are invited to events on campus regularly,” Meadors said.
Meadors said that guests are sometimes provided with transportation between university locations, if necessary, by various divisions.
“It may be by golf cart, vehicles or van. This is standard procedure at all universities.”
Lonsway, self-described concerned citizen, said she believes that the university’s officials have made light of the “nine separate infractions” where Meadors allowed UCA police to transport immediate family members.
“I am mad that the university representatives have made light of nine or so infractions. I am tired of officials in this state breaking Arkansas laws. That is what brought me to file this complaint,” Lonsway said.
On a personal note, Meadors told the Commission that his parents would no longer, in the future, accept transportation to campus events, and therefore would be unable to attend events because of their ages and physical conditions.
Sloan said that the Commission may use as many as 150 days to investigate or resolve the alleged violation.
“All relevant records are confidential until any final action is taken,” Sloan said.
Rita Looney, chief council for the AEC, said that the Commission acts as an administrative agency with jurisdiction over public servants, office holders and elected officials.
“Anyone is subject to the same sanctioning authority with (this code), and the (AEC) can issue public letters of caution, all the way up to reprimand, or can issue fines from $50 to $2,000,” Looney said. “The Commission does not remove anyone from office.”
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