Former U Of A Spokesman Writes Book About 2012 Advancement Division Shortfall

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — A former associate vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, who was fired in 2013 following an investigation into a $4.2 million shortfall in the Advancement Division in 2012, has published a book documenting the financial controversy.

The Advancement Division is in charge of fundraising money for the university. A state legislative audit into the $4.2 million shortfall showed officials did not comply with university fiscal policies and continued to spend millions more, even after revenue stayed the same.

“Please Delete,” which was released this month, was written by John Diamond.

In January 2014, Diamond and former Vice Chancellor David Choate both claimed then-Chancellor G. David Gearhart ordered the destruction of financial documents in connection with the shortfall during a legislative committee hearing in Little Rock. Gearhart denied the claims, telling the committee he did nothing wrong throughout the shortfall and its aftermath, and called Diamond a disgruntled former employee.

Diamond was fired in August 2013 following a heated meeting with university administrators concerning the school’s response to Freedom of Information Act requests from the media.

Washington County deputy prosecutor David Bercaw released his findings in December 2013 saying that he found no evidence of criminal activity in the shortfall following an extensive investigation. Bercaw said the fact that no money was actually missing and all of the deficit money was spent on legitimate Advancement Division purchases contributed to that conclusion.

The Washington County Prosecutor’s Office investigation began in September 2013 after Roger Norman, legislative auditor for the state auditing committee, referred four issues to the prosecutor’s in the case of the UA budget shortfall.

One of the issues concerned Diamond’s testimony, but Bercaw’s investigation found there was no evidence that Gearhart ordered the destruction of any documents associated with the prosecutors’ query or the budget audit.

Some hard-copy documents were shredded as part of a cost-saving measure by the Advancement Division, Bercaw found. The prosecutor’s office also concluded that administrators made every effort to fulfill public records requests made by local media, and despite some documents being destroyed, Bercaw didn’t find evidence that the Foundation Payment Authorization Forms were disposed of with the intent to frustrate the audit or any FOIA requests.

Another issue concerns a $1.57 million gift to the university from the Tyson Family in 2011 that was supposed to be used in the construction of the Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center. Instead of placing the money in a restricted fund for the center, Joy Sharp, former chief financial officer and budget director for the division, placed the money in 2012 in an unrestricted fund that went to the Advancement Division, Bercaw’s notes show.

Choate and Sharp both lost their jobs in 2012 in connection to the shortfall. The prosecutor’s office found Sharp’s redirection of the money was not intentionally carried out to cover the deficit in the division. Bercraw’s findings appear to contradict a UA treasurer’s conclusion that Sharp transferred the money in “an intentional effort to disguise a prior year’s accounts receivable balance that had not been cleared.”

According to Diamond, his book relies on thousands of pages of email, transcripts, financial records and first-hand accounts. In describing the book, Diamond writes “Gearhart and other university officials quietly engaged in a disturbing series of panic-fueled leadership decisions” that led to a scandal that involved attempts to deceive investigators, hide and destroy records and silence witnesses.

5NEWS contacted the University of Arkansas about Diamond’s book, but was told the university had no comment.

G. David Gearhart announced his retirement in January 2015 and stepped down from the position July 31.

“Please Delete”  is available for purchase on Amazon.com for $7.99 for a Kindle copy and $10.72 for a paperback copy.