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University of Central Arkansas President Resigns over Food Service Contract Flap

CONWAY, Ark. – The president of the University of Central Arkansas lost his job Friday after he failed to tell school trustees that a food services company’s proposed $700,000 donation to renovate his university-owned house came with strings attached.

Allen C. Meadors met with the board of trustees a day earlier to apologize for not telling them the money was conditional on the renewal of Aramark’s contract with Central Arkansas.

Meadors is the second university president in a row to leave under pressure. Lu Hardin resigned in 2008 after trustees questioned his bonuses.

Board president Scott Roussel said Meadors called him after Thursday’s meeting with the trustees and offered his resignation. The board met Friday to negotiate the terms of a buyout. They appointed the school’s general counsel, Tom Courtway, to take over temporarily.

Meadors will be paid his $225,000 salary through the end of 2013. Private donors will pay that salary starting in July 2012. Roussel said that money has not yet been raised.

“There’s a few people that have said they will make sure the money is raised,” he said.

Roussel, who said he knew about the full details of Aramark’s contract and also apologized Thursday, said he wouldn’t resign.

Trustee Foster Green, who criticized  Meadors’ failure to be transparent, said after the meeting that the board looked forward to “brighter days” after Meadors’ departure.

“I think that was the best thing that could have happened,” he said.

Meadors wasn’t at the meeting Friday and no one answered the door at his university home.

His predecessor, Hardin, resigned in 2008 after controversy erupted over a $300,000 bonus. He would later admit to falsifying a document to make it appear that administrators agreed to let him take bonus money early, as his gambling debts mounted.

Hardin pleaded guilty in March to fraud and money laundering charges and is slated to be sentenced this month.

State Rep. David  Meeks, R-Conway, said he was frustrated with the university’s scandals. Meeks said he worried that the school’s administrative problems were distracting from its successes.

“You don’t want to see this keep happening,” Meeks said. “I don’t know if it’s just making sure we go through the recruitment process better or making sure there is an understanding on how things operate.”

The university has reached similar deals with soft drink and food service vendors in the past.

In 2005, Aramark agreed to give UCA $1.9 million for capital improvements -money the former school president, Lu Hardin, said would be used for an addition to the student center. Aramark then added vendors to the student center at its own cost.

Associated Press writer Andrew DeMillo contributed reporting from Little Rock, Ark.


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