Nov 102005
 
Authors: James Baetke

A recent CSU internal audit obtained by the Collegian says the University Counseling Center has been knowingly "fiscally irresponsible" with taxpayer money for more than a decade, pinning some of the blame on the department's head for letting $17,000 slip from the center.

The report from CSU System Internal Auditing Department shows that the center also did not follow recommendations handed down in a 1992 audit of the center. The same issues cited in 1992, including cash-handling procedures and approval of a petty cash system, have still not been implemented, according to the audit.

The more recent audit was conducted amid concerns that a UCC employee was stealing large sums of cash, eventually totaling about $17,000.

Brian Grube, the university bursar and cash manager, found that $27,000 worth of cash was missing from July 2002 to April 2005 from the UCC. CSUPD eventually arrested Reva Jeanette Miles, who has been charged for allegedly embezzling $17,000 in cash.

This arrest came after a five-month police investigation and internal audit that found evidence of departmental misconduct, including concerns with cash handling, ACARD purchases – cards university employees can use to make approved, business purchases – personal phone use, sick leave and inadequacy of supervisory oversight.

CSUPD Detective Eric Lintz concluded in his report that "the UCC culture has been left on its own and has no accountability for at least 13 years, and probably beyond that."

As pieces of new information flow in, "culpability is still open with the UCC director" Charles Davidshofer, Lintz said.

The 2005 audit concludes that the "fiscal irresponsibility" of the UCC can be traced all the way to Davidshofer.

Davidshofer still may face charges of official misconduct, Lintz said, but he added the suspicion is "just on the table."

On Tuesday, Davidshofer refused to comment on the financial methods in his department, saying, "There is no way I can comment on these things."

When reached again Thursday after approval by university relations to speak about the audit, he still refused to speak on the matter.

Police were able to tap into three years of alleged financial woes from, in part, documents secretly recorded by a UCC employee suspicious of Miles. This data also helped in drawing conclusions in the audit.

According to the most recent audit: "It is apparent that UCC management was aware of the inappropriate business practices. Since the deficiencies persist, there is a concern that UCC management is either incapable or unwilling to operate in accordance with state fiscal rules and established university policies."

Keith Ickes, CSU vice president for administrative services, acknowledges that the money missing from UCC is serious because it is also the university and Colorado taxpayers' money.

"It is part of the manager's responsibility to set the tone," Ickes said.

This tone was almost nonexistent, leading to several breakdowns causing this massive UCC oversight, Ikes said.

"Multiple breakdowns have to occur for something to be a problem," he said. "We are very confident this will not happen again."

Since the audit, the financial functions of the center are under "financial receivership," meaning that none of the UCC finances are being handled by its own department, Ikes said.

Reporting directly to the university president, Ikes said it is too costly to pay for more frequent audits, but admits that if an audit were scheduled sooner monetary leakage would have likely been nabbed sooner.

'Under no conditions…?'

The UCC audits and the CSUPD investigation show that the UCC violated university financial policies, including its own internal regulations.

The audit found that Miles was the sole person responsible for making deposits for UCC and the department was using an unapproved petty cash system – something Lintz said was commonly used by Miles to keep thousands of dollars to buy office supplies and reimburse employees.

The 1992 audit warned that if receipts were not issued for cash payments there would be potential for misappropriation. The latest audit found that receipts were not properly kept, if kept at all, and that no proper documentations system was in place to substantiate funds.

Several ACARD purchases by Miles – including one of a cappuccino machine – are considered personal because none of the items could be located at UCC. Ickes said Miles should be held accountable for these purchases and admits Davidshofer may have responsibility, too, since he would have likely had to approve and sign the purchases.

Purchases include 275 pieces of flatware totaling over $300 and a $415 office storage unit.

The audit also found that Miles abused her cellular phone designated for business calls only. Between September 2004 and June 2005, Miles racked up nearly $1,300 in additional charges by going over in her plan.

The report tracked calls to locations where family members lived and noticed the personal greeting on the phone had no mention of UCC or CSU.

For 44 days, or 352 hours, of sick leave reported during the fiscal year of 2004-05, Miles appeared to be outside the Fort Collins area, according to her cellular phone bill detailed in the audit. The audit concluded that a significant proportion of paid sick leave should have been reported as non-paid annual leave.

Miles was also paid $9,500 per year for a 2- to 3-year period for working in the Computer Based Testing Center at UCC. The audit found that Miles was only present 25 to 40 percent of the time. Davidshofer noted this excessiveness in the report and said it was his intention to end future payments to Miles for her role at the testing center.

In the police report, several employees say they routinely bought supplies when needed and asked for reimbursement from Miles. This was a "common practice," but is a clear violation of the center's own financial practices.

In an internal UCC document obtained by the Collegian, it states: "under no circumstances should you purchase any materials, books, supplies, etc. on your own and later ask for reimbursement."

After police initially interviewed Miles on a Friday, she produced a cash box containing nearly $8,000 on the following Monday, Lintz said. Miles told police the money in the box was used for "office supplies, salaries and various office items."

Accountability

Almost immediately after Miles was charged with one count each of theft, embezzlement of public property and unauthorized use of a transaction device, the university came to suspect all of its petty cash systems, Lintz said.

Ickes was notified early in the investigation and has continued to make sure the checks and balances in the university are trying to make sure something like this is avoided in the future.

For Lintz, much of the blame for the missing $17,000 lies within UCC, but some accountability should fall on the shoulders of the university, including the purchasing department that oversees ACARD purchases.

"As a whole, the UCC is responsible for 98 percent of its problems," Lintz said.

Lintz believes the 1992 audit was a slap on the wrist for Miles and Davidshofer. Between 1992 and summer 2005, Lintz said he has no doubt that Miles had been stealing from the university.

"In my opinion, this goes back thirteen years," he said. "This is going to have ramifications for years to come."

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