Faculty union spearheads independent audit of Cal U. spending

December 9, 2013
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The same faculty-supported independent audits that alleged financial mismanagement at seven state-owned universities considering laying off professors will be performed at the remaining State System of Higher Education schools, including California University of Pennsylvania.

The most startling findings in the first round of audits announced last week were just how far actual spending differed from what was listed on budgets, said Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents 6,000 professors and coaches at the 14 schools.

“We’ve not been comforted by the accuracy,” Hicks said.

The first APSCUF-commissioned audits by Boyer & Ritter of Harrisburg focused on Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Kutztown, Mansfield and Slippery Rock universities.

The audits further allege the schools hid debt in affiliated corporations, funded new construction based on questionable assumptions and took on debt to pay for new dormitories and “other lavish construction.”

Cal U., meanwhile, already has been criticized for overspending on a new convocation center and failing to deliver on nearly $12 million in donations it promised to fund construction.

Hicks said Cal U. also signifies how unreliable budget numbers can be after it went from having an $11.5 million deficit in May 2012 to a $5.8 million surplus in August.

He recognized, though, that interim Cal U. President Geraldine M. Jones made significant cuts across the board at that university to curb spending.

“What she knew in August we should have known a lot sooner,” Hicks said.

State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan said the first round of audit findings had “obvious errors” that led the union to make “unsubstantiated statements.”

“In fact, our budget process is thorough, transparent and professional,” Brogan said in a news release. “We believe the findings in the report demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of our procedures by Boyer and Ritter.”

He said the university budgets are fluid and undergo many adjustments between the time they are presented to the governor’s budgeting office, sent to the state House and Senate and finalized. Each budget is then audited by an independent firm after the close of each fiscal year, he said.

In addition to Cal U., the second round of audits will involve Lock Haven, Indiana, Shippensburg, Bloomsburg, West Chester and Millersville universities.

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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