BANGOR, Maine — John Diamond, former spokesman for the University of Maine and former Democratic lawmaker, was fired from the University of Arkansas amid disagreements over how much information to release regarding budget problems in the school’s advancement division, according to news reports.
Diamond is the associate vice chancellor for University of Arkansas relations in the Division of University Advancement at the Fayetteville, Ark., school. Arkansas Business reported that the university announced Diamond’s departure on Friday without citing a reason. He will leave at the end of September.
In an email Sunday night, Diamond said he was unavailable to speak with a reporter.
Diamond told Arkansas Times, a weekly alternative newspaper, that he had been let go through a text message from the vice chancellor of university advancement, Chris Wyrick.
“I learned of this action in a text message from Chris Wyrick at 11:28 this morning,” Diamond, 58, said in a Friday email to the paper. “I believe it’s the result of strong philosophical and material differences over what it means to be a transparent and publicly accountable university.”
He and his University Relations team wrote the speech made by the university’s athletic director in 2012 announcing the firing of Bobby Petrino, the former Razorback head football coach. Petrino was fired after a motorcycle accident that led to the revelation that he was having an affair with a woman who worked for him.
The University of Arkansas team, led by Diamond, won a “Best Crisis Management Award” from PR Daily earlier this year.
The Times reported that Wyrick replaced Brad Choate as head of university advancement after a multimillion-dollar budget deficit was discovered in Choate’s operation. The division’s budget officer also resigned.
Wyrick acknowledged that 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, the Des Moines Register reported Saturday.
Diamond was one of three finalists for vice president for strategic communications at the University of Iowa. He did not get that job.
The paper said the University of Arkansas resisted releasing information detailing overspending in its advancement division and hasn’t released its budget for the current fiscal year or disclosed how it balanced last year’s budget.
The Register filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for documents regarding the budget shortfall in July. Diamond, who was responsible for handling such requests, responded with a one-page document, the newspaper reports.
Diamond went to Arkansas in 2010 after spending 21 years with the University of Maine System, most recently as executive director of external affairs. At the system office, his responsibilities included oversight of media relations, marketing, brand management, publications, website management, public opinion research, advocacy and special events. He also was the official spokesman and chief speechwriter for the chancellor and board of trustees.
Before moving to the system office, Diamond was director of public affairs at the University of Maine. He also served as an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications there.
Two of his friends from his UMaine days expressed surprise at his firing on Sunday.
“He was honest, straightforward, intelligent and professional,” former UMaine System Chancellor Terrance MacTaggart said Sunday. “He was part of an informal team that restored faith in the University of Maine. We needed to make the case that UMaine was managed well and he helped us to do that.”
Outside of the university, Diamond served four terms in the Maine House of Representatives during the 1980s, including two terms as House majority leader. He was active in many community groups, including serving as chairman of the board of directors for the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce.
“I don’t know what is going on there [in Arkansas], but I can tell you that I served in the legislature with him and knew him at UMaine,” said Jeff Mills, president of University of Maine Foundation. “He has always been an excellent employee and very good at his job. He is someone who is really professional in every regard and done good work wherever he has been.”
Diamond was selected from 150 applicants for the post at the University of Arkansas, the school announced.