In a letter addressed to Legislative Auditor Roger Norman, University of Central Arkansas Interim President Tom Courtway responded last week to findings in the recent audit of the university.
Courtway declined to comment on Saturday, saying he will not comment publicly until after he testifies before the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, which will be either Thursday or Friday. He said for the time being, the university's written response is his only public response. Courtway also declined to comment on any personnel matters.
The audit reported that it appears the university and its primary advertising and marketing vendor had converted public funds to private funds, which the UCA Foundation used to reimburse the head football coach in excess of the position appropriation.
In the UCA response, Courtway said, "On April 26, 2009, the UCA Foundation Inc. issued a check in the amount of $82,500 to the university in full repayment of the sums identified in this audit finding."
The audit also mentioned the much-publicized bonus and severance payment to former president Lu Hardin. The UCA response noted the bonuses have been repaid and that the severance agreement was negotiated between Hardin and the Board of Trustees.
Also, the audit noted that UCA entered into an agreement in 2004 with "an individual and a corporation owned by the same individual" to bring The Oxford American to campus. The audit said UCA has spent a total of $170,000 for operational costs on The Oxford American.
"The agreement appears to conflict with the Arkansas Constitution (which) states, in part 'the state shall never pay the debt or liability of any corporation"
Courtway responded that the magazine has provided opportunities to the university's students as well as others in the community and state.
"While there have been many financial challenges for the magazine, the indebtedness owed is documented, and currently the magazine does not require any additional monies from the university," Courtway said. "While we are aware of the constitutional provision, the university is not paying a debt of another company but merely providing operating capital for an entity which enhances the prestige of the university and the learning of its students."
The complete audit findings are available at the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit at http://www.legaudit.state.ar.us/ under early releases.
(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)