Aramark’s $700,000 "gift" toward the University of Central Arkansas’s president’s home announced at last week’s Board of Trustees meeting should have been presented as a "business proposal," according to trustee Rush Harding III.

A letter obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act dated Aug. 12 from Brad Crosson, Aramark district manager, to Diane Newton, UCA vice president for finance and administration, contains a contingency on the $700,000 gift.

Aramark terms the amount an "unrestricted grant," that is contingent upon an extension of the food vendor’s contract by seven years.

Harding said that while transactions like the one in the letter are commonplace with soft drink and food service vendors, he believed that the Board did not have all the information needed before the group was asked to vote.

"This was a business transaction, not a charitable gift, so I wish it had been presented to the Board that Aramark had this business proposal. We actually entered into a similar transaction for our indoor practice facility," said Harding. 

The school entered into a 10-year contract with Pepsi in 2003 that would provide royalties of at least $50,000 and other values of $422,000 from the company over the course of the contract.

In 2005, a Log Cabin article stated that Aramark, under a new contract, would give UCA $1.9 million for capital improvements. 

At the time, former university president Lu Hardin said the money would be used for an addition on the west side of the UCA Student Center. 

Since that time, Aramark has added vendors at their own cost to the student facility. 

"Let’s say that we’re relatively not happy, though I can’t really speak for the others," Harding said. "It could have been handled better."

Newton said Wednesday that when she received Crosson’s letter containing the proposal, she immediately forwarded it to President Allen Meadors. 

She said that her knowledge on the matter was limited to the letter and again stated that she sent it to the president. 

Harding said he felt that the $700,000 was presented to him at the meeting as an "unrestricted gift" with "no conditions."

Harding added "in the administration’s defense" that he believed it was thought that the proposal, since it did not include an increase in fees to students, was acceptable. 

"We’ll figure this out tomorrow," he said.

On Wednesday, UCA distributed a release stating that the Board of Trustees would meet in a called meeting at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Trustees Conference Room in Wingo Hall. 

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at courtney.spradlin@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)