FBI, Prosecutor Investigating If U Of A Destroyed Public Records

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The FBI is involved in an investigation into overspending at the University of Arkansas and allegations that public records were destroyed. At the same time, the Legislative Joint Audit Committee in Little Rock scheduled another hearing on the matter.

“He was gracious enough to join us and help us out some,” said David Bercaw, deputy prosecuting attorney, said of an FBI agent.

The local FBI agent is working with the Washington County Prosecutor Office in Fayetteville. They’re sorting through records and conducting interviews after a $4.2 million shortfall in the university's fundraising division.

“There’s no suspicion of any federal issues on this,” Bercaw said. “It’s just a matter of we asked to use his expertise.”

The prosecutor’s office is looking at possible charges in the accounting practices that led to the deficit and is looking at a former employee’s claims that university’s leaders mishandled public records.

“Some issues on the Freedom of Information Act have come up as far as some records that were believe to have been destroyed,” Bercaw said.

State Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest and co-chairman of the Legislative Joint Audit Committee, said the committee plans to have a Dec. 13 meeting with Brad Choate, the former University Advancement vice chancellor who lost his job in incident. King said lawmarkers also invited Joy Sharp, a former budget official, but to his knowledge she hasn’t responded.

King said the goal is to have all the sides to this issue.

“We’re trying to find out what happened, what’s being done to correct it and making sure that they`re going on a direction that something like doesn't happen again,” King said.

King said the university agreed in October to change its accounting method.

“The university’s accounting methods have not been recognized by anybody is something that should be done in accounting, and that was a big part leading to the deficit that happened,” King said.

The committee and the prosecutor haven’t set a date to when the investigation would be complete.

“Anytime the legislative audit asks us to look at an issue, we just look at it and then determine if any charges are going to be filed,” Bercaw said.

Bercaw wouldn’t comment on any specific charges their office is considering.