ORLANDO, Fl. - A draft report prepared for the Florida House of Representatives’ Public Integrity and Ethics Committee is shedding new light on millions in misspending at the University of Central Florida and raising questions about who knew what and when.
The report, based on records obtained by the Florida House and UCF staff depositions shows what the report calls an “institutional culture in which employees aware of misspending failed to raise the issue with audit or compliance officers, the general counsel, or the BOG (Board of Governors).”
The report also raises questions about former UCF President Dale Whittaker, who resigned last month, finding that “Dr. Whittaker failed to learn about legal constraints on spending, despite responsibility to do so.”
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Of the ten findings listed by the committee, most deal with poor training and oversight.
The findings raised questions about just what senior staff knew; including former presidents John Hitt, Dale Whittaker, and former CFO Bill Merck, with the state writing, “emails reflect that the General Counsel provided Provost Whittaker with briefing materials including BOG (Board of Governors) Reg. 9.007 upon Whittaker’s arrival at UCF.
Further, Whittaker received at least one clear written explanation of the limited purposes and permissible uses of E&G funds written by Tracy Clark. Clark reported she never briefed Whittaker about her TCH funding concerns. Whittaker deferred to Merck’s knowledge and experience and Clark deferred to Merck’s authority. All deferred to President Hitt’s clear direction to build TCH despite audit concerns.”
Clark and Merck provided depositions to the state as part of its investigation. Whittaker gave a partial deposition, and Hitt has agreed to only answer written questions; declining to sit for a live deposition.
The report also indicates that UCF was opaque when it came to documenting the spending on Colbourn Hall, finding that the Capital Outlay Budget was not amended to show the construction project and that budgets did not conform to the requirements of law.
“UCF authorized $38 million in E&G carryforward funds to be used for construction of TCH (Colbourn Hall) in violation of state law. Another $13.8 million was misspent on other projects. More than $32.7 million of E&G carry forward funds were also transferred to construction accounts for unlawful use on other projects but remained unspent when the BOT learned of the audit findings. UCF has reported refunds of this misspending from non-E&G accounts that include investment gains earned on non-E&G funds.”
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