More University of Central Arkansas employees have access to grand master keys now than in June, when then Chief of Staff Jack Gillean resigned suddenly after police found then student Cameron Stark had used Gillean’s key to break into buildings and steal exams and medication, university and court records show.
President Tom Courtway told internal auditors Friday that UCA has restricted the number of keys available and is changing its policy for who gets those keys. The grand master keys in question are for non-residential buildings.
"I think we’ve got it right now," Courtway said Friday.
But those changes are not directly tied to findings in the most-recent internal audit that spotlighted security breaches at UCA, Physical Plant Director Larry Lawrence said Tuesday.
"The audit did not begin the process of updating the keys," Lawrence said. "It’s my opinion that this is merely coincidental that this (key policy change) started shortly after this (Gillean) happened."
In a statement released Thursday, President Tom Courtway said officials continued reviewing the key policy after police said they found Stark had broken into McCastlain Hall in June, but the catalyst for starting revamping the key policy came about because of questions raised earlier this year.
"For some time, several offices at UCA have been involved in drafting and reviewing the ‘key policy’ of the university," Courtway said in his statement. "This work started earlier this year as a result of questions raised by the UCA Office of Internal Audit, as well as the Board of Trustees. Later this year, as a result of the entry into McCastlain Hall in June, we continued this review."
Courtway also said that the lists of who has a housing grand master key or a nonresidential building grand master key will continue to be reviewed. He said the list for the nonresidential buildings "is composed almost exclusively of UCA law enforcement and physical plant personnel who are ‘on call’ 24-7."
Despite these reviews and restrictions, UCA documents also show more people, not fewer, have access to grand master keys since Gillean resigned June 15. That includes a key assigned to a police officer who is now dead.
Spokesman Jeff Pitchford said Thursday the key assigned to former officer Jeremy Duplessis who died in 2011 could be a case where one department didn’t communicate with the other. The key may simply be listed under Duplessis’ name, he said.
According to UCA’s website, Duplessis served in the police department from 2005 to 2009.
The shakeup over UCA’s key policy and who has control of keys that open nonresidential facilities on campus comes after break ins at UCA lead to Gillean being charged with four felonies, including commercial burglary, in October.
Stark is a key witness against Gillean.
UCA was revisiting its key policies earlier this year because some keys were not being returned in a timely manner under the process of leaving them with assigned secretaries, Lawrence said. Sometimes keys took a long time to be inputted into the computer system for the Physical Plant to collect them, he said.
Lawrence started revising the policy because he "didn’t feel good about all the keys we were getting back," Lawrence said.
The Audit Committee approved updated key and lock guidelines in February. UCA documents show that between Feb. 22 and 23, six UCA officials — Lawrence, Director of Special Events Don Bingham, then Provost Lance Grahn, Vice President for Finance and Administration Diane Newton, Athletics Director Brad Teague and Police Chief Larry James — turned back their grand master keys.
"Even though I liked my key for convenience sake, I felt (turning it back) was the right thing to do," Lawrence said Tuesday.
Courtway never had a grand master key, according to an email from spokesman Jeff Pitchford.
Newton said in email through Pitchford that she benefited by turning back her key by not having to worry about losing the key.
"It is a big responsibility and one I didn’t need to carry," Newton said in email. "The benefit to the campus is less risk. The fewer people that have them, the less likelihood of something going wrong."
On June 30, 28 people had master keys, according to a list supplied by then spokeswoman Venita Jenkins, but 30 people had master keys on Dec. 7, according to a list provided by Pitchford. Among those with keys is a professor of the Leadership Studies at UCA, according to the UCA website, but most people on the grand master key list are officers and Physical Plant employees. One officer was assigned two grand master keys, according to UCA’s list.
Only one person, Adam Henderson, then director of environmental health and safety, turned back a grand master key between June 15 and Dec. 7, according to an email from George McKee, maintenance worker supervisor in the Physical Plant. Henderson resigned shortly after Gillean.
The only changes directly tied to the Dec. 3 internal audit is the new key policy will apply to all employees, even those with grand master keys for housing and that Lawrence started a "found" form for people to fill out should a key be found, according to Lawrence and a statement issued by Courtway on Thursday.
The form for found keys is in response to a physical plant employee finding Gillean’s key on the ground in spring 2011. Lawrence returned the key to Gillean without documenting the incident, according to the internal audit.
UCA documents show 55 people have grand master keys to housing facilities.
"We will continue to review the lists, the policy involving keys (not only grand masters, but others) and will work with the Office of Internal Audit and the Board of Trustees to maintain the safety and security of all university facilities," Courtway said in his statement.