Saturday, March 8, 2014
From staff and news services
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The University of Arkansas fired its chief spokesman – a former University of Maine System official – amid a dispute over how much information the school should disclose about recent budget shortfalls in its advancement division.
John Diamond told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a story published Saturday that he was fired via text message late Friday morning.
“I believe it’s the result of strong philosophical and material differences over what it means to be a transparent and publicly accountable university,” Diamond said in an email sent Friday to the newspaper. “I learned of this decision in a text message from Chris Wyrick at 11:28 this morning.”
Vice Chancellor Chris Wyrick acknowledged Diamond was fired, effective at the end of September, but said Diamond asked that a letter documenting the dismissal not be released pending a ruling from the state attorney general on whether it must be disclosed.
For the past several months, the university has resisted releasing information detailing overspending in its advancement division, which includes the school’s fundraising, alumni and public relations arms. It also hasn’t released the division’s budget for the current fiscal year or said how it balanced last year’s budget.
Wyrick became vice chancellor for university advancement on July 1 and immediately restructured his division. He replaced Brad Choate, who lost his job after the school found a multimillion-dollar deficit going back several years.
At the time of the restructuring, Diamond was one of three finalists for vice president for strategic communications at the University of Iowa. He was not hired.
Diamond arrived at Arkansas in 2010 after working in the University of Maine System, where he was director of external affairs. He was paid $173,354 at Arkansas.
Diamond previously was an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at UMaine, and served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives during the 1980s, including two terms as House majority leader.
The advancement division shortfall was disclosed last December but the university has said it won’t provide details until legislative auditors complete a review later this month or in September.
Diamond was the school’s designated agent to handle Freedom of Information requests. In response to a July 22 request by the newspaper for information regarding the deficit, budget-balancing efforts and restructuring, the university replied with a one-page document.