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The University of Arkansas System has handled an audit of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in a manner that sends up more red flags about the audit more than wrongdoing on the local campus.

UA System President Don Bobbitt said four UAPB employees were fired earlier this week over ďpurchasing and payroll issuesĒ at on-campus dormitory housing, yet the systemís spokesman wonít release any details.

Public relations people have long records of muddying up the water whenever problems surface. Why say anything until the audit is concluded? They canít identify the four employees because of privacy restrictions, yet painted a number of potentially innocent workers with the same brush of some that may be guilty. We believe the identity of the four is a matter of public record, but in not commenting, they painted innocent employees with the same brush. That brush was out again when Bobbitt said other areas of the university might require investigation and other employees disciplined.

We donít have any problem with uncovering wrongdoing. It should be welcomed in the public and private sectors. But an audit or investigation should always proceed with caution.

One other troubling point: If the UA Systemís internal audit division started the investigation in response to an anonymous tip left on a fraud hot line in 2010, why has it taken so long to complete the audit?

They are just now getting around to asking the Arkansas State Police Criminal Investigation Division to assist in the probe. Leaking information prematurely is not how ASP conducts a criminal investigation.

Raise the rates

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The Pine Bluff School Board has tabled a recommendation by Superintendent Jerry O. Payne to move ninth graders from Jack Robey Junior High School to Pine Bluff High School until directors can study the proposal.

It seems a grade 10 through 12 school is required to have an 85 percent graduation rate, while a grade 9 through 12 school needs a 70 percent graduation rate, Payne explained to the board. The PBHS graduation rate has averaged 68 percent over the past four years.

Under the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment and Accountability Program, the penalty for failure can be stout.

Has anyone considered asking the administration and faculty at PBHS to work a bit harder and raise the graduation rates? A 68 percent rate means we have failed almost one-third of the schoolís students.

Failure is not an alternative when you are dealing with young lives.

Pain at pumps

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Regular unleaded gasoline was selling for $3.23 a gallon at a number of retail outlets in Northwest Arkansas on Thursday, and for $3.69 a gallon in the Batesville area.

The price range was $3.44 to $3.49 in the Pine Bluff area the same day.

A commuter who drives from Pine Bluff or White Hall to his or her job in Little Rock can easily determine they will have less money in their pocket at the end of each week with the higher fuel costs.

Do you blame Iranians rattling sabers in the Middle East again or more fuel efficient vehicles? Itís not that simple.

A number of American refineries have been shut down. Some are older units that would be too expensive to retrofit to meet environmental regulations. American oil companies are exporting gasoline since they can make more money in the global markets. Thatís supply and demand.

The options for the consumer are limited: Accept the burden, buy stock in big oil or hope the pundits who say gas will hit $4 a gallon soon donít know what they are talking about.