Hardin's expense account
It came as something of a surprise when the University of Central Arkansas reported in a state Higher Education Department pay survey that President Lu Hardin's benefits included a $57,000 annual expense account financed by the UCA Foundation.
A Freedom of Information Act request for records of that spending turned up some other surprises.
The expense account is worth far more than $57,000 a year. Also, there are some differences in the amount Hardin reportedly has been reimbursed by the Foundation and the amounts he's reported to the state on his annual financial disclosure statement.
According to the Foundation's records, Hardin was reimbursed $64,326 in fiscal 2006, which ended June 30, 2006; $61,525 in 2007, and $70,348 in 2008, the fiscal year just ended.
The Foundation is continuing to dig up records of the specific expenditures and has promised to provide them to the Times. So far it has only provided spending in broad categories for the president's expenses. For 2007-08: Donations, $10,783; sponsorships, $10,300; campus/president's home furnishings, $763; awards, $200; flowers, $4,651; printing, $3,536; gifts for UCA guests and constituents (ranging from $6 to $175), $5,914; half the cost of 14 golf memberships for athletics, $6,599; meals for President Hardin and guests, $2,714; meals for employees/groups/receptions, $3,247; event deposit, $1,658; luncheon/banquet tickets, $600; Reynolds tickets for UCA guests and constituents, $1,935; team entry fees — golf, $3,065; travel — President and Mrs. Hardin, $4,186; charter plane for Ruston game, $3,351; travel for speakers, $524; deposit on art for constituent gifts, $2,100; miscellaneous, $4,222.
University presidents are among the public officials who must file an annual statement of financial disclosure with the secretary of state. These statements include all sources of income, including disclosure of expenditures of more than $150 for officially-related food, lodging and travel. Those statements are filed on a calendar year basis, covering Jan. 1-Dec. 31. Hardin's statement for 2005 disclosed $12,504 in such expenses; $8,388 in 2006, and $3,878 in calendar 2007.
Some of the expenses reimbursed by the Foundation seem clearly to be for purposes other than food, lodging and travel. Nonetheless, it would appear that Hardin received reimbursements in excess of the amounts he reported to the state for those purposes. For example, Hardin's itemized expense disclosures to the state reported $1,444 in food, travel and lodging in fiscal 2007 (July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007). The Foundation records show he was paid $8,830 in that same time period for travel and meals. Without itemization, it is impossible to say if the preponderance of that spending was in amounts less than $150 and thus not among expenses required to be reported to the secretary of state.
The Times received the documents Tuesday. Hardin was out of the office that day for eye surgery and unavailable for comment.
The Times reported last December on a lawsuit on behalf of a Eureka Springs seventh-grader, Bobby Conway, who was denied a spot on the middle school basketball team because his hair was too long. Baker sued, arguing that it was unconstitutional to establish a rule on boy's hair when there was no limit on the length of girl basketball players' hair. The School Board and superintendent Reck Wallis backed the coach.
All's well that ends well.
The Harrison Daily Times reported last week that the hair rule had been dropped along with Conway's lawsuit. The school superintendent retired in February, coincidentally. In an order dismissing the case, Special Circuit Judge John Lineberger wrote that the school had assured Conway's parents that he wouldn't be barred from sports because of his hairstyle.