by Max Brantley
The University of Central Arkansas is essentially stonewalling efforts to get information about football coach Clint Conque's "inappropriate relationship(s)."
It has released some telephone records to the Log Cabin Democrat, but refuses to release e-mail and computer files from Conque's state-financed computer. Tom Courtway is hiding overmuch behind the messy precedent set by the state Supreme Court in protecting some of the personal e-mail from former Pulaski County comptroller Ron Quillin after it was sought in the aftermath of his implication in theft of public money.
What UCA fails to acknowledge in its stonewalling (it knows this full well, however), is that the Supreme Court left it to a judge to review the Quillin record and ultimately much of it was released, including lots of spicy repartee with his girlfriend, plus photos. Why? Because his gal pal was a county vendor and the fullness of their conversations illustrated how he'd performed his public job.
Sources indicate at least some of Conque's communications were with a university employee, a workplace involvement that raises obvious questions about equal treatment and proper behavior in the workplace. UCA does itself no favors by pre-emptively putting these public records out of bounds. It should lose a lawsuit if, in these difficult times, someone can afford a lawyer to challenge Courtway. Courtway, however, is on the public teat and can defend forever on taxpayers' dimes, plus use taxpayer money to hire legal assistance. This is an abuse of public trust by UCA to throw up this defense.
One other legal wrinkle: A reliable source says the UCA Board some years ago cautioned against use of school e-mail and computers for personal purposes. It said it could prove embarrassing to the school and employees. Has that policy been violated? This policy would make a dandy ground on which to seek a judge's release of the protected documents. Would compliance with board policy not constitute a record of performance of public duties, Mr. Courtway?
I can't fathom why UCA officials decided to go to the mat for Conque in this, not given his at least peripheral involvement in the Lu Hardin scandals (the funny way money was funneled to Conque to avoid state salary caps). Oh, wait .... Didn't Courtway work there back then, too?