If this is true it would be a bombshell.
Diamond praised the report released this week by Legislative Audit, which delivered a less-than-glowing review of both the university’s lack of transparency surrounding this episode and accounting practices at the Division. Still, said Diamond, the Legislative Audit team “could not do its work as well as it needed to” because key documents were unavailable. (…) But Diamond says that at least some documentation may have been destroyed under verbal directives from Chancellor David Gearhart and another university officials. Diamond says that there are multiple witnesses who can corroborate this accusation and who will testify under oath if asked by the committee. When asked by Rep. Kim Hammer why those individuals weren’t here today, Diamond said that most still have jobs at the university and feared reprisal from administration. Diamond also faulted university officials for maintaining a “culture of secrecy” around the issue and for not consulting himself and other senior staff when compiling a previous internal investigation into the fiscal trouble at Advancement (long before the external legislative audit work began).
As a result of this testimony, the Committee voted to reopen the report and to refer Diamond’s testimony to the prosecutor. In consequence, the audit team now has to continue its work and investigate the matter further. One question will certainly be whether Diamond’s testimony will be corroborated by other witnesses – in which case Chancellor Gearhart will be in trouble. The reopening of the audit also has the unfortunate consequence that the records gathered by the audit will remain closed to the public. Arkansas Code 10-4-422 specifies:
“All working papers, including communications, notes, memoranda, preliminary drafts of audit reports, and other data gathered in the preparation of audit reports by the division are exempt from all provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (…) After any audit report has been presented to members of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, the audit report and copies of any documents contained in the working papers of the division shall be open to public inspection“
Although the report was presented to the Auditing Committee, the Committee voted to “accept this report as not presented”.
Update: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports in more detail on Diamond’s allegations:
Diamond said: “Members of the Advancement Division leadership team and staff received directives from key individuals that resulted in the destruction of documents relevant to the audits and to Freedom of Information Act requests.
“This occurred both before and after [Gearhart’s Feb. 5] request” that the Legislative Audit Division and the UA System Internal Audit staff review the Advancement Division’s spending, Diamond said.
“These two reasons are in part why auditors could not find documents they sought, and that’s why so few responsive documents were given to the media during the past several months,” Diamond said.
Diamond said Reynolds also directed employees to carry out a “housecleaning” of financial records early this year. Employees were asked to shred boxes of financial records days after Gearhart called in state auditors on Feb. 5, Diamond said.
Reynolds said Friday in an email that the allegations “are false. I did not order a ‘house cleaning’ of documents, and no one ordered me to do so.”