UCA's lingering stench | Arkansas Blog

UCA's lingering stench

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DIXIE BAND CAMP 2008: From their website.

Another fine piece of work today by the Democrat-Gazette's Debra Hale-Shelton.

She has turned her attention to a sweetheart of a 10-year summer band camp contract held at UCA by Lu Hardin chum Robin Nix, who once held a high-paying UCA job courtesy of Hardin. Interim president Tom Courtway fired Nix and has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to renegotiate the band camp contract. That's good. But don't give Courtway a trophy just yet. Note a paragraph in the article:

Courtway said in an interview that, as UCA's legal counsel at the time, he had drafted the Dixie contract "based on the directions I got from President Hardin."

He, in other words, just followed orders in drafting a contract much longer than that enjoyed by any other outside contractor and at a much cheaper cost for use of UCA facilities. Now he tells us it's not such a hot deal.

Courtway, you'll recall, was tapped by insider legislators to run the state lottery. I bet, had that deal gone through as insider legislators originally planned, he'd be touting keno parlors today, too.

Another point: I'm not sure I buy Nix's statement that his band camp is essentially a non-profit enterprise that makes money for UCA. It would be nice to see his books.

Here's what we know. Nix brings in 1,200 campers at $285 each for five- to six-day camps. That's gross income of more than $340,000 per summer (less about $30,000 in camper scholarships). UCA is only charging about $13 per student per day for facility, dorm and health clinic use. Some undetermined additional amount goes for food.The camp has to pay staff. But it looks to me that there's room for a hefty margin.

Nix, in defense, says the camp has given UCA $55,000 in contributions over 12 years. That's less than $5,000 a year, or about a $4 rebate per camper.

ALSO NOTED: Lu Hardin hired Robin Nix for $159,000 a year. Nix for a time kicked back $5,000 a month of his salary to the UCA Foundation. The Foundation has been a source of Hardin pay enhancements.

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