LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A former University of Arkansas fundraiser who was fired after his department ran up a more than $4 million deficit is set to testify this before a legislative committee.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1cjlwTw ) that Brad Choate is to speak to the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee on Friday. He told the newspaper that he can't comment about what he'll say because he signed an agreement with the university in February that prohibits him from disparaging top UA staff members, but said he appreciates the invitation to speak.
"I'm coming of my own free will, on my own time, at my own expense," said Choate, who headed UA's Division of University Advancement. "I appreciate the invitation to speak."
The only arenas in which Choate can speak critically are in court proceedings and audits, and Choate said Friday's legislative meeting will qualify because it's part of state auditors' investigation into the university fundraising division's overspending.
UA Chancellor G. David Gearhart and state auditors have said Choate and budget officer Joy Sharp, who also lost her job because of the deficit, didn't monitor the division's spending and that Sharp made accounting errors. But state auditors also criticized accounting by UA finance officials and questioned whether those officials disclosed all information to auditors.
Sharp was also invited to speak to the committee. Legislators said she hasn't said whether she will attend and she did not respond to phone calls for comment.
Like Choate, Sharp has not been subpoenaed, so her attendance would be voluntary.
"Anybody makes mistakes and bad judgments, those things happen," state Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest, co-chairman of the Joint Auditing Committee said. "But anytime you have a problem, you want to hear the whole story."
"We want to hear from Mr. Choate and Ms. Sharp," said King. "Chancellor Gearhart has said Mr. Choate was responsible. I think we want to hear (Choate's) side of the story."
Gearhart was also expected to appear before the legislative committee.
The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee's role is "to provide guidance and accountability standards" for state agencies, according to the Division of Legislative Audit's website.
King said that is what lawmakers hope to do when they meet Friday. After the hearing into the UA-Fayetteville fundraising division's financial troubles, the lawmakers could decide to send information to prosecutors for investigation, close their examination, or to keep the audit open for a further look.
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com