Sunday, September 16, 2012

FDLE investigation fails to show that FAMU was in a financial crisis

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement's (FDLE) probe into the Marching 100’s finances ended anticlimactically last week. The investigation found some sloppy practices involving per diem payments and cash deposits in the band, but nothing that warranted criminal charges against any Marching 100 staffer. One university official outside of the band was charged for allegedly receiving $1,800 through bogus travel reimbursements.

The issue with per diem payments to dozens of non-students was already old news before the FDLE report was released. Back in May, then-President James H. Ammons announced that an internal review of Marching 100 documents found that 101 ineligible individuals were on the Fall 2012 roster. The university also acknowledged that the band administration had given many of them per diem dollars.

The FDLE reported that "a total of seventy-nine (79) of the individuals who received per diem were not, in fact, registered students of the University." It did not include an estimated grand total for the per diem funds.

Another section of the report found that ex-Director of Bands Julian E. White “failed to report the theft of the band dues to FAMU Police Department for approximately three (3) months after the theft was discovered. Statements from witnesses indicated that the amount of the stolen funds was $30,000 to $40,000. The funds consisted of cash, personal checks, money orders, and cashier’s checks. In Mr. White’s report to the FAMU Police Department, he stated that only $12,000 in cash was stolen.”

Those issues all needed to be addressed. But the FDLE did not find that any laws were broken in those cases. Its conclusion stated that there were breeches of university-level rules.

The Tallahassee Democrat's editorial board has depicted the FDLE's findings as proof that "Things were very wrong at Florida A&M."

The most serious issue in the FDLE report involved an estimated $40,000. The Democrat's editorial board members did not write that "things were very wrong" at Florida State University (FSU) when an internal audit showed that the construction manager for the Student Success Building "billed and the University paid $60,000 of questionable salary expenses."

It would be fair to say that FAMU was in a true financial crisis if its annual audits from the Florida auditor's general's office were filled with problems. But they have been spotless since 2007. The Florida auditor general's office looks at the overall quality of the entire financial operation.

Problems caused by individual employees who violate university policies do not mean that the central financial books aren't being managed correctly. The clean annual Florida auditor general audits that FAMU and FSU continue to receive despite various internal financial policy compliance issues at both schools show that.

FAMU does have some work to do in making sure that financial problems that took place inside the Marching 100 don’t happen, again. But in the meanwhile, FAMUans shouldn't hold their breaths for the Democrat's editorial board to give the findings on FSU's internal audits or state operational audits the same attention that gives to FAMU's financial issues.

Read the four-page FDLE report here.

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