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Ex-leader of ASU won't face charges

Travel, hiring moves spurred inquiry by Bill Bowden | December 19, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A grand jury has declined to indict former Arkansas State University at Jonesboro Chancellor Tim Hudson, who resigned in 2016 amid accusations of nepotism and conflicts of interest.

Scott Ellington, prosecuting attorney for Arkansas' 2nd Judicial Circuit, sent an email Monday to Arkansas State Police Director Col. Bill Bryant to inform him of the grand jury's decision.

Evidence was presented to the grand jury Dec. 12, according to Ellington's letter. State police Special Agent David Moss "gave extensive testimony at this session of the grand jury," Ellington wrote.

"The result was the grand jury returned a decision of 'no true bill,'" according to Ellington.

That means the grand jury didn't find "enough evidence to charge the defendant with violating a criminal law," he wrote.

The case is now closed with no charges filed, according to Ellington.

"I don't follow it, and I have no comment," Hudson said when contacted by a reporter Tuesday. He hung up before the reporter could ask a follow-up question.

Hudson is now the interim executive director of the Center for Extended and International Education at Austin Peay State University, which is based in Clarksville, Tenn. Hudson is listed as being on the "President's Cabinet" at the university.

The Arkansas investigative file will be returned to the State Police, Ellington wrote. Bill Sadler, a spokesman for the State Police, said the agency had yet to receive it as of Tuesday afternoon. Sadler said certain information will be redacted from the file before it is made available to media outlets and the public.

State and ASU System audits revealed that Hudson tried to hire his wife, Deidra Hudson, as the university's full-time study-abroad director. When he learned that state law prevented him from hiring his spouse in the position, Hudson blocked the hiring of a full-time director so his wife could remain in the position part-time. Deidra Hudson later resigned from the position, and the university has since hired a full-time study-abroad director.

Tim Hudson received free trips abroad and allocated student-assistance money to a company for which he once served on the board, according to the audits. Subsequent investigations also found that Hudson tried to use his status as chancellor to help his daughter get financial assistance from out-of-state colleges she was considering.

Tim Hudson earned $360,000 a year as ASU chancellor. He led the Jonesboro campus for four years and left with no severance pay.

In June 2017, the Arkansas State University board of trustees approved hiring Kelly Damphousse to replace Hudson. Damphousse was previously dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.

According to a Nov. 29 article in The Leaf-Chronicle, the newspaper in Clarksville, Tenn., Tim Hudson was hired in January 2017 to the newly created, interim job at Austin Peay under a 12-month contract. Provost Rex Gandy, the vice president of academic affairs, later gave Hudson a 16-month extension, according to the article by Chris Smith.

"University policy is that temporary employees cannot work longer than 12 consecutive months," Smith wrote. "But in violation of that policy, Provost Rex Gandy gave Hudson a second contract for January 2018 through June 30, 2019, with the option for an extension to June 30, 2020, according to [Austin Peay] audit documents obtained by The Leaf-Chronicle."

Hudson and Gandy were colleagues at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to the article.

According to Austin Peay's response to the audit, Hudson will remain on the job, wrote Smith. Hudson's salary at Austin Peay was unavailable Tuesday night.

"The response stated that the position will be evaluated at the end of the contract period, and if it is deemed to be necessary, it will be made permanent, with a formal candidate search," he wrote.

Jeff Hankins, a spokesman for the ASU System, said ASU President Chuck Welch was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Metro on 12/19/2018

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