After a lengthy investigation, a former University of Central Arkansas president was charged Wednesday with a misdemeanor for tampering with a public record, Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland said.
Former President Allen Meadors could face up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine for asking Diane Newton, vice president for finance and administration, to destroy a letter.
"Basically what we are charging is that he solicited someone else to destroy a public record," Hiland said.
The charge stems from an investigation into a possible mishandling of a "grant" proposed by Aramark food vendor that was placed before trustees last year. A $700,000 proposal to further renovations of the UCA president’s residence was presented without strings attached by then Board of Trustees Chairman Scott Roussel.
In the Aug. 12, 2011 letter, Aramark’s Brad Crosson wrote to Newton about an "unrestricted grant" to renovate the President’s home. In exchange, the company asked UCA to agree to "an extension of our contract by seven years, to May 31, 2019, and request buyback protection."
Meadors resigned last September after trustees learned that Aramark’s offer was contingent upon a seven-year contractual agreement in which Aramark would be UCA’s sole food service
provider. UCA agreed to pay Meadors more than $500,000 and another $225,325 from separate funds to buy out the remainder of his contract.
Roussel resigned under pressure this past May, but he will not be charged with any crime, Hiland said.
UCA trustees approved a 10-year food service agreement with Aramark this past April.
Newton was out of the office Thursday but has told other news outlets that Meadors asked her repeatedly to destroy the 2011 letter. Hiland wouldn’t say why he thought Meadors might want to tamper with the letter. That letter was cc’ed to Rick McCollum, assistant vice president of housing and contract services.
In email, Meadors referred questions surrounding the charge to his attorney, Tim Dudley of Little Rock. Dudley was unavailable to comment Thursday and did not return a message left with his secretary.
Meadors’ charge is the second time in the past four years that a former UCA president has been charged with wrongdoing. The newest charge does not affect UCA, President Tom Courtway said. The university is moving forward with students who are eager to learn and faculty and staff who are engaged and dedicated, he said.
Hiland said the university has been very transparent during investigations and that Courtway is a "calm" leader. Meadors’ charge does not reflect poorly on UCA, he said.
"This is not a reflection on the University of Central Arkansas," Hiland said. "All institutions sometimes have people who do bad things — sometimes criminal things. The actions of a few do not define an institution. What matters is how the institution responds to the negative circumstance."
Courtway had no comment on the charge against Meadors.
Meadors is currently in North Carolina, so his attorney will plea for him, Hiland said. The former president is unlikely to be arrested.