Records show a recently demoted University of Central Arkansas administrator was repaid hundreds of dollars in expenses before he even applied for a job at the university and nearly $20,000 more soon after he applied and was hired.
The records obtained by a state newspaper show Alex Chen was reimbursed about $750 in for April 18-19, 2010.
Chen’s application for associate vice president of an international program at UCA is dated April 24, 2010.
Later in 2010, after interviewing for and being chosen for the post, Chen was reimbursed nearly $19,900 for the cost of travel from China for the job interview and for his move to Conway after he was hired.
The documents do not state a business reason for the April trip, and UCA administrators said they do not know why Chen made that trip.
The April reimbursement was for airfare between St. Louis and Little Rock and for Chen’s hotel and food bills. UCA spokesman Venita Jenkins said Chen was a guest of then-UCA President Allen Meadors, a longtime friend.
Neither Chen nor Meadors returned messages seeking comment.
UCA Provost Lance Grahn, who was Chen’s superior in the international program, said he understood that Chen "was coming (to the United States) because of a Meadors family event in St. Louis. It would have been very easy then to just drop down ... from St. Louis" to visit UCA.
But Grahn said he did not know the purpose of the visit.
Chen was demoted on Nov. 2 from associate vice president to marketing professor and interim President Tom Courtway notified the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service of allegations that some Chinese students Chen supervised had worked on campus more than visa regulations allow and, in some cases, without compensation.
Meadors resigned Sept. 2 after failing to tell trustees that food service vendor Aramark had offered $700,000 to help renovate the university-owned president’s home only if the company’s contract was renewed.
The Arkansas State Police has an open investigation into the incident. Meadors has said he made an honest mistake and didn’t intend to mislead anyone.