Two sources report this week that a federal probe continues of financial transactions during Lu Hardin's tenure at the University of Central Arkansas. FBI agents have asked, our sources say, about 1) a $100,000 bonus paid to Hardin from state funds, later repaid by private sources; 2) the accelerated payment of a $300,000 bonus to Hardin in an action originally done in secret on the strength of a memo allegedly from four UCA employees that Hardin admitted later he'd prepared; 3) payments of state money under a UCA marketing contract that seemed to have been turned back to the private foundation that supports UCA athletics to supplement the athletic director's pay in excess of the state salary cap. Hardin, who took a buyout and resigned in 2008 so the school could “heal” from the various controversies, is now president of Palm Beach Atlantic University.
It belongs to the city of Little Rock but it serves the whole state, and there's some thought that state government should take over the Little Rock Zoo. One of those who's thought about it is state Sen. David Johnson, in whose legislative district the zoo is located. Johnson won approval of a state appropriation for the Zoo last year — and state aid has not been the norm in the zoo's history — but that was one appropriation and it was for one capital-improvement project. Zoo spokesmen say the zoo badly needs continuing financial assistance for operations. A “state zoo” bill likely won't be introduced in the next session, because of the shaky economy, but Johnson said he might sponsor such a bill when the economy improves. Other legislators helped with the appropriation bill and are interested in the zoo, he said, and he thinks there might be substantial support from educators. Any bill would have to include assurance that Little Rock would continue to help support the zoo, Johnson said.
Doctor leaves Arkansas
St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center has lost the high-profile neurosurgeon it hired away from UAMS last year to offer “unparalleled expertise” at its new Arkansas Neurosciences Institute. Dr. Ossama al-Mefty, internationally known as a skull-based surgeon, will leave in a month, and sources say he'll join the staff of Harvard Medical School. He worked at UAMS from 1993 to 2009 and was the highest paid state employee in Arkansas when he left to go into private practice. Dr. Ali Krisht, another of UAMS' top surgeons who was recruited to St. Vincent, remains at the institute.