by Max Brantley
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette produced one of those Saturday newspapers of yore, a stack of public record reporting by dedicated beat reporters who understand the subjects they cover and work to elaborate and amplify. Comments on them follow, though, sadly, you can't read these articles without a paid subscription:
* SYMPATHY FOR ALLEN MEADORS: Debra Hale-Shelton scores again, with a review of the closed police investigative file that led to a misdemeanor plea bargain with former UCA President Allen Meadors on covering up a contribution-for-contract deal with a campus food service vendor. It would appear he spent a few hundred dollars of public money so he could buy enough computer time while abroad to watch skin flicks (70s-era blondes were a favorite subject) as well as the website illustrated above. Good story. But painful to read. I'd bet there are a lot of employees public and private rushing to clear Internet browsing histories today. Yes. Meadors was the architect of the circumstances that led to a proctological-level review of his every action as UCA president. He lost a swell job and a big house. He has a criminal record. And now he gets worldwide exposure for his Internet use, plus painful recitations of interviews with a police investigator, including one interrupted by a phone call from home. Wince. He has to wonder when it will ever stop. And whether there might be some bigger university fish to fry. ... Shazam! There are. Read on.
* UA FAYETTEVILLE: AN OUTLAW INSTITUTION: Lisa Hammersly reports that UA Chancellor David Gearhart, backed by legal counsel, refuses to release an internal review of multi-million-dollar mismanagement in the school's advancement division. It's laughable, but unless somebody has the money to sue the UA's phalanx of lawyers through circuit and appellate courts, the official secrecy will stand. Spending decisions amount to personnel records? You might as well put the entire books of the Fayetteville campus off-limits as part of Gearhart's own personnel record. It's arrogant. It's shocking. And it's the UA way. The campus has NEVER fully complied with the Freedom of Information law relative to Walton family purchases of select parts of the university, particularly the political lobby established on campus for "school reform." This is more of the same. When you don't fire a bad actor, but merely send him on his way with cushy severance — as UA did for the chief mismanager of the advancement division — you're never required to talk about the actions that resulted in their departure. Shocking. Arrogant. Typical.
* AND SPEAKING OF UNIVERSITY AUDITS — UAMS HAS EXPLAINING TO DO: I'm embarrassed that time didn't allow me to follow up on a mention here yesterday of an unflattering audit of the radiology department at UAMS. (Do we detect a thread here of university management problems in Arkansas?) Evie Blad explored in depth today the moonlighting, conflicts of interest and curious arrangements with outside operators that at least one UA trustee thinks requires a whole lot more attention. Yes, I'd say so. I hope, as activist Joann Coleman has noted, that the city of Little Rock is a little bit embarrassed about its rush to make planning accommodations for a private radiology operation across the street from UAMS despite a haze of ambiguity about the precise nature of that facility's relationship with UAMS. (It never got built.) An awful lot of smoke generated by this general topic, particularly for an institution desperate to receive more money through a major expansion of Medicaid. For those interested in the fine print, I did obtain a copy of the audit yesterday.
* WHO'S PLAYING POLITICS?: Charlie Frago drew out Sen. Bryan King in the great Medicaid audit dispute. It's Gov. Mike Beebe — not King, he says — who's trying to game Legislative Audit by pushing for a full response from Human Services to a hurryup release of a special audit that will re-plow old ground on Medicaid as well as look in new areas.
Beebe’s comments were designed to throw the Legislative Audit Division’s independence into doubt and unfairly tar the GOP’s motivations, he said.
“You can put me on the record on that. I’ll defend myself every time,” King said.
Once more with a question King has refused to answer for me. A full defense by the bumptious senator would include release of his communications with Legislative Audit on the Medicaid audit. Did he influence its origins, direction and emphasis? Release your email and the audit's internal communications about Republican influence on the process, Senator King. I've asked him again this morning for the information. He has refused to respond to previous inquiry.
* AND FINALLY, WE'LL ALWAYS HAVE THE DESEG CASE: You know me, Al. The Little Rock School District has had few more reliable defenders (not blind defense, I'd like to think, but still.....). But reading Cynthia Howell's report on the LRSD's court petition to keep the state of Arkansas in the 1989 desegregation case, two words kept coming to mind — dying gasp. The state SHOULD fund magnet schools in perpetuity. (Though they are destined to be destroyed in time by creation of more charter schools.) The state HAS failed to do much more than throw money, rather than meaningful intervention and oversight, to the cause of erasing racial achievement gaps. The state HAS perpetuated segregated housing patterns that contribute to school segregation. But ..... The federal courts WILL NOT allow LRSD to keep the state in court indefinitely after declaration of unitary status for all three Pulaski school districts. A significant portion of continuing state support, maybe all, WILL go away. I don't object to the district's playing out the legal string. Some significant settlement concessions should be made, particularly, I hope, relative to successful magnet schools and inequality in state transportation funding. Bus money disparity is a legitimate issue statewide, by the way, not only in Pulaski County. But the end is near. LRSD should be making plans to extricate itself sooner rather than later from this case.