UCA turns over gift investigation to state police

The University of Central Arkansas has turned over its investigation into a $700,000 gift offered by a food service company to Arkansas State Police.

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) - The University of Central Arkansas formally suspended its investigation Tuesday of a $700,000 proposal to renovate the former school president's house, an offer that later led to the president's resignation.

Trustees have questioned how and why they weren't told that food service company Aramark's offer of the $700,000 grant came with the condition that its contract be renewed automatically for seven years.

After the full terms were revealed, University President Allen C. Meadors admitted he had known about the full terms of the deal. Meadors resigned Sept. 2. The board of trustees voted to form an internal committee to find out what happened.

But Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland asked Arkansas State Police earlier this month to investigate the case on its own, leaving the university's investigation in an awkward position.

"We didn't have any choice," said trustee Rush Harding III in an interview Tuesday. "When people with badges start telling you what to do, you say, `Yes sir,' and do what they tell you to do."

Hiland did not return a phone message Tuesday morning seeking comment. Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, said the investigation was ongoing and declined to comment further.

In an interview before his resignation, Meadors told The Associated Press that he thought trustees would assume that Aramark's offer came with conditions and that he wouldn't need to make that clear.

"It just didn't dawn on me ... that we would need to make a point of that issue," Meadors said. "That was wrong. That was my mistake, and I accept it totally."

Meadors has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing, and Harding said Tuesday that he didn't know what authorities were investigating.

"I don't have any answers as to what happened yet," he said.

As part of his buyout, Meadors will receive his $225,000 salary through the end of 2013. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Meadors is the second Central Arkansas president to resign under a cloud. Lu Hardin resigned in 2008 after questions arose about early bonus money he had received. He later admitted to falsifying paperwork so he could collect bonus money to pay off gambling debts.

A federal judge on Monday sentenced Hardin to five years' probation and community service, but no prison time.


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