Prosecutor: No Perjury Charges Against Gearhart

The last remaining judicial investigation in connection with the financial crisis in the University of Arkansas’ Advancement Division has been closed.

  • Chancellor Gearhart, January 14, 2013: “Why do we have these documents? Get rid of them!”
  • Gearhart under oath, September 13, 2013: “I have never said to anybody that they should destroy documents.”
  • Prosecutor Larry Jegley, June 2, 2014: “there may be differing versions of the events and discussion concerning the matters at issue”.

Pulaski Prosecutor Larry Jegley announced on June 2 that he’d found no probable cause to take action against University of Arkansas officials (via Arkansas Blog). At issue was whether Chancellor Gearhart or other officials had committed perjury at a hearing of the Legislative Auditing Committee; Jegley’s office had jurisdiction because the hearing was held in Little Rock. Jegley’s letter gives no detailed reasoning for his decision. According to ArkansasOnline, Jegley could not be reached for further comment. For the University, and in particular for Chancellor Gearhart, an embarrassing  chapter has been closed for good but the damage is considerable.

On January 14, 2013, Chancellor Gearhart told staff members at a meeting, after a budget document had been handed out: “Why do we have these documents? Get rid of them!”. This version of events was confirmed by three witnesses: former Associate Vice Chancellor for Development Bruce Pontious, now retired; Associate Vice Chancellor Graham Stewart, who left to take a position at Vanderbilt University; and former university spokesman John Diamond, who was fired in 2013 and recently was appointed as spokesman for the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

2 quote Gearhart: ‘Get rid’ of papers, Lisa Hammersley, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 19, 2013

At the meeting of the Legislative Audit Committee on September 13, 2013, confronted by Diamond, Gearhart stated under oath: “I have never said to anybody that they should destroy documents.”

Washington County assistant prosecuting attorney Dave Bercaw, investigating possible FOIA violations, redacted the “get rid” quote out of his final report. Now the Pulaski County prosecutor closed the remaining perjury investigation, stating: “While there may be differing versions of the events and discussions concerning the matters at issue, none rise to meet the standards [of the perjury statute].

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