by Max Brantley
The UCA Board is now in a called meeting to hear President Allen Meadors explain the school's latest PR predicament. The meeting has opened, according to Fox 16, with an apology from Meadors for his oversight. He now says he doesn't want to take money from Aramark offered in return for a seven-year contract extension and that the contract should be bid in May.
UPDATE: Meadors caught grief from the Board of Trustees this evening. The Board rejected the Aramark money, but stopped short of requiring a new bid for catering services and apparently took no action against Meadors.
Aramark, which has the contract for campus food service, had announced it would contribute $700,000 to the renovation of the president's residence, a seemingly interminable project that has rankled faculty and drawn no end of press scrutiny.
A key fact was omitted in the Aramark announcement, the Democrat-Gazette reported a few days ago. Aramark made the offer in the form of an upfront rebate of its charges over what it hoped would be an extension of its existing contract. It's apparently a typical way major vendors that participate in college facility costs structure deals with higher education institutions. It would have gone down a lot easier had it been described that way at the outset. As it was, it appeared to be manna from heaven from a long-time vendor with a charitable streak. It wasn't.
Most board members aren't happy about how it went down. In the face of the controversy, Meadors said it would be his recommendation to not take the Aramark money and to seek private donations for the house work. He also recommends bidding the food service contract when Aramarks' current agreement ends in May. I'll update the outcome when I can.
UPDATE II: The Board, after a closed session, emerged to say they wanted to investigate — under oath — the representations about the Aramark contribution. Don't know how they met secretly if they weren't considering hiring, firing, promoting or demoting a specific employee. Jeez, can UCA ever get it straight.
UPDATE III: The Board has scheduled a meeting for 3 p.m. today.