Nov 202008
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge, J. David McSwane

The CSU System Board of Governors said Thursday that it will not take into consideration an anonymous written request from a secret group “of about 12” faculty, staff and Fort Collins community members for an investigation into funding shifts and other grievances pertaining to former CSU President Larry Penley’s tenure.

BOG spokesperson Michelle McKinney said in an e-mail statement to the Collegian that the board is refusing response because the letter was anonymous and didn’t provide a tangible source with which to open a dialogue about the proposed investigation.

“In the spirit of openness and transparency, the Board of Governors welcomes feedback regarding matters of the campuses,” McKinney said. “However, because this letter is anonymous, the Board is unable to respond and contact someone to have a dialogue. The Board expects groups and individuals to forward comments and concerns in an open and accountable manner. Anonymous letters will not be taken into consideration.”

The group , which calls itself Mark Felt – a play on the true identity of “Deepthroat,” an integral source used by The Washington Post during its investigation of the Watergate scandal – also claims to have sent the letter to several state officials who have called for more transparency from the CSU administration.

The letter called for more accountability and better accounting practices at CSU after Penley’s five-year employment as president saw a significant increase in administrative spending as the academic colleges and library saw much slower growth. During Penley’s tenure, tuition and fees skyrocketed 52 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

During that time, Penley drastically overhauled administration, funneling tens of millions of tuition and tax dollars that could have gone to academics to fund hefty VP salaries and budget lines.

Then, in Penley’s final summer semester, the university took out nearly $140 million in Wall Street loans for new building projects, which come with at least a $5-million-a-year price tag. And in the light of a mounting economic crisis, the group questions how CSU will pay for increasing interest rates.

The embattled president’s tenure was underscored by highly publicized controversy in 2007 as he clashed with students, faculty and state lawmakers over a last-minute clause he introduced into Colorado’s Long Bill, which dictates university budgets, that would have effectively increased tuition by about $1,200 per student in one year.

As controversy mounted, several key auditors left the university — three on the same day — under arguments with the president about the financial philosophy of his administration, according to one of the men, Edwin Routsinoja, the former Controller of the CSU System, and several other sources who spoke anonymously to avoid backlash from CSU.

Three of the four financial overseers signed agreements requiring them to keep quiet about any arguments they may have had with the university and took large financial incentives totaling almost a quarter of a million dollars.

And while Interim President Tony Frank, who took the helm after Penley abruptly resigned two weeks ago, promises more open communication and has made substantial cuts in administrative budgets, Mark Felt said the issues must still be addressed, as they have landed CSU in copious amounts of debt and haven’t emphasized academics enough.

Mark Felt has been an ongoing background source to the Collegian during an eight-month-long investigation into Penley’s administration prior to his abrupt resignation earlier this month. Reporters met in person throughout the investigation with the group’s intermediary, a former CSU employee who is familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity, to confirm the group’s legitimacy.

Political science professor John Straayer, who, along with biomedical science professor CW Miller, has long been a public critic of the funding shifts and many of the concerns cited by Mark Felt, said he was worried that Collegian readers would think he and Miller were members of the group and “were playing two games” after a story about the letter ran in Thursday’s newspaper.

“That simply not the case,” Straayer said, adding that the board, with no one to get back to, couldn’t respond.

“I presume the board will do whatever they think is appropriate,” he said.

Development Editor Aaron Hedge and Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane can be reached at tips@collegian.com.

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