The FBI is looking into financial discrepancies outlined in a 2008 legislative audit of the University of Central Arkansas, a source who claimed to be familiar with the ongoing investigation said on Thursday.
Unable to discuss the matter publicly, the source spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the source, "Although I did not hear this from the FBI, one thing I know for sure is that the FBI is interested in the deal with the advertising agency ... that’s included in the legislative audit."
The source was referring to a 2008 legislative audit in which auditors found that the university had paid a total of $82,500 in public funds between the 2005 and 2007 college football seasons "to its primary advertising and marketing vendor for a football show ‘sponsorship,’" according to the audit report.
The report states that in each of these years the advertising and marketing vendor, Combs and Co. of Little Rock, then paid the UCA Purple Circle Foundation — which is only authorized to use privately donated funds to supplement public funds — amounts identical to those received for Combs and Co. "sponsorship."
Auditors found that the funds paid back to the Purple Circle Foundation were in turn used to compensate UCA Head Football coach Clint Conque $32,500 in 2005 and $25,000 in both 2006 and 2007 for his participation in a series of TV programs "presenting the university’s football team report during the football season" as per the conditions of Conque’s contract.
This practice, auditors found, constituted the conversion of public funds in to private funds on the part of both UCA and Combs and Co. "which the (Purple Circle) foundation used to reimburse the university for contract amounts paid (to) (Conque) for the television show," according to the audit report, which states that these funds were administered by then-UCA senior vice president Joe Fred Darling.
The university has since severed its relationship with Combs and Co. and Darling under the interim presidency of UCA legal counsel Tom Courtway, who assumed the position after the resignation of Lu Hardin.
The source would not elaborate on what other UCA matters may be of interest to FBI investigators, saying that they were privy only to this matter.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)