by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Arts Center's former chief financial officer will repay the AAC $11,976 for personal items he charged to the organization's credit card, the Arts Center board of directors revealed today.
Rocky Nickles, who left the Arts Center in early 2010 after an audit turned up questionable expenditures, has already paid $6,000 of the total, and has agreed to make monthly payments of $476 for 12 months, the 12th due April 1, 2012. The Arts Center has agreed not to seek criminal or civil charges against Nickles. The settlement was reached March 28.
Nickles' charges were uncovered during an Arts Center Foundation audit of the Arts Center's books prompted by debt incurred during the planning and exhibition of the "World of the Pharaohs" show that opened in 2009 and closed in July last year. He was terminated for performance before the charges became known, board members said at the time. Among the items Nickles bought on the Arts Center card were meals and entertainment, carpet, windows and scaffolding ($1,919.68), a tuxedo ($605.78), car repairs ($466.24) and $4,039.93 in gas. The total "personal usage" amount was determined to be $14,969; Nickles had reimbursed the Arts Center about $3,000 previously.
Nickles was a long-time employee of the Arts Center, rising to deputy director for finances under Townsend Wolfe and keeping the job after former director Nan Plummer was hired in 2002. Plummer resigned shortly after Nickles was terminated.
The Arts Center board met for almost an hour in executive session, but didn't announce the purpose for the closed session beyond "personnel" issues. It's unknown if the session was devoted to Nickles' case or discussion of a selection of a permanent director of the center. Joe Lampo is the interim director.
— Leslie Newell Peacock