Audit: UGA-linked employees misspent money

The University of Georgia has dismissed three employees of the UGA-based Institute of Continuing Legal Education following an audit which found financial improprieties among its staff.

The audit, dated Aug. 23, noted several instances of personal use of ICLE resources by employees without proper reimbursement, including the use of ICLE credit cards for personal charges, hotel upgrades and extended hotel stays.

Among its findings:

  • About $57,000 in excessive payments for the business use of a personal car for several employees, including almost $1,600 billed by ICLE's executive director for new tires for his Porsche, and more than $500 for tires and repairs for his wife's Mercedes, and more than $16,000 in insurance premiums for staff members' vehicles
  • $1,561, mostly related to spa and fitness expenses, were incurred by the IT manager and his wife while on an ICLE-sponsored seminar cruise in November. The money had not been reimbursed and was not identified as personal until auditors inquired in July
  • Six ICLE cell phones being used by non-employees, including two phones used by the IT director's children and four phones used by the former executive director who retired in August 2013
  • Other internal control weaknesses including: under reporting taxable employee fringe benefits, possible employee abuse of leave policies, some conflicts of interest policies in time-card approval and external tax and audit preparation

Auditors noted that they were informed that some ICLE documents and emails were still being shredded although employees were told in June not to destroy documents.

According to its website, the Institute of Continuing Legal Education is a nonprofit consortium of the state bar and Georgia’s law schools, which provides continuing education classes for attorneys. It is self-supporting and receives all of its income from tuition charges for the classes and sale of publications. ICLE is governed by a board of trustees, and no University System of Georgia money is used to fund ICLE operations.

All ICLE employees are considered UGA employees, receive UGA benefits and are subject to UGA’s personnel rules. Compensation for ICLE employees is funded by the organiztion and processed by UGA.

The audit, which covered January 2015 through March 2016, was prompted by a February tip by a whistleblower about mismanagement.

UGA law school dismissed the employees, ICLE executive director Stephen Harper, director of projects Brian Davis, office manager Janet Andrews, Aug. 22. All three are appealing the terminations, said a statement provided by UGA law school spokeswoman Heidi Murphy. The ICLE board voted Aug. 23 to suspend the three employees with pay, funded directly by ICLE for 60 days while the board reviews the situation.

Auditors also recommended discipline for staff accountant Karen Sorrells.

The audit also cites the lack of a formal operating agreement between UGA and ICLE and recommends one be put in place.