Incoming PBAU President Leaves Legal/Ethical Problems in Arkansas

When the Sun-Sentinel announced that Arkansas transplant Lu Hardin would take the helm of Palm Beach Atlantic University July 1, the newspaper quoted  R. Marshall Jones, chairman of the presidential search committee, who called Hardin "a person of great character and ability as well as a man of great faith."  But writers at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, who followed Hardin as he led the University of Central Arkansas, had harsher descriptions of the man's activities. Like "low-jinx" and "various and appalling screw-ups."

Hardin resigned from UCA last August after a financial scandal was exposed and he admitted to lying. According to an audit by the Arkansas Legislative Audit Division, Hardin accepted an extra $100,000 in pay in 2007 and an extra $300,000 in 2008 -- funds that were approved by the Board of Trustees. The monies violated state laws that limit salaries for heads of universities. To support the $300,000 bonus, Hardin had provided the board with an unsigned document purportedly from three of his vice presidents; those three later said they had no knowledge of the document. Eventually, Hardin returned $200,000; $100,000 was recovered from his payroll withholdings; and a board member chipped in to repay $100,000.

Of course, after his resignation, Hardin received a comfy golden parachute: he got "sabbatical" payments of $234,381 (paid for with public money), "the continuance of all fringe benefits," $585,170 in severance pay, $11,822 for payroll taxes, and an option to remain on the university's health insurance plan through 2012. The audit noted that Hardin's "sabbatical conflicts with University policy which requires employees granted a sabbatical to return to work after the sabbatical." 

The auditing committee has since turned its report over to prosecutors in Faulkner County, who are deciding whether to pursue charges. A call to the prosecutor was not immediately returned at presstime. Calls to President Hardin and a PBAU spokeswoman were not immediately returned either. But here's the university's announcement of its new prez.

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