by Max Brantley
I mentioned earlier that an independent internal audit unit at UCA was likely to be put in charge of putting together the facts and timeline on the $700,000 Aramark "gift" for UCA presidential house renovation as part of a deal for a contract extension. The strings attached to that gift were not disclosed when announced and that led shortly after to a contract buyout of President Allen Meadors.
Further development today: Interim President Tom Courtway revealed that a top Aramark official had said Aramark was contacted by a UCA official about making the "gift," not the reverse.
Most interesting. It only stands to reason that somebody at UCA would have come up with the idea of a "gift" from Aramark to get the house renovation finished. Was it Meadors or one of his lieutenants? Is there a record? WAS there a record? The plot thickens.
UPDATE: I see Courtway has identified UCA VP Diane Newton as the specific employee who made the overture to Aramark, though much remains to be known about her conversations/notes/etc. if any with Meadors on the subject. She has not spoken yet. She was hired by Meadors in late 2009. Having been silent in previous board sessions on the gift and when she was appointed to a committee to investigate how the gift came to be made, she has several questions to answer in addition to the simple chronology.
The operative theory from critics of the former president continues to be that Meadors' wife Barbara was a driving force beyond the presidential mansion expansion project and was living in North Carolina, with Meadors' dog, until the issue could be resolved. That provided a powerful impetus for the president to find a way to get the project done, although Meadors has been quoted publicly as saying the house project was not of major importance to him. Though the house had had major repairs and HVAC work and at least $66,000 in other improvements, it remained the focus of ongoing studies, to the unhappiness of many on the campus who wanted to turn attention elsewhere.