Georgia Tech President George P. “Bud” Peterson has agreed to reforms to “strengthen the ethical culture” of the institution. He is shown here speaking at the Georgia Tech graduation commencement ceremony in May. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia Tech V.P. retiring as president shakes up staff after investigation

Georgia Tech president George “Bud” Peterson announced Friday several personnel and organizational changes in response to investigations into several former top administrators misusing their positions.

As the changes take place,  Vice President for Legal Affairs and Risk Management Pat McKenna is retiring.

McKenna’s position, Peterson said, will be renamed, and the officeholder will serve as the chief ethics officer “with sufficient authority and responsibility to ensure an independent and objective assessment of potential conflicts of interest and ethical concerns,” reporting directly to the president.

McKenna, who tendered a resignation letter May 30 as the investigation into multiple ethics and policy violations was heating up, had played a role in the events that led to four highly-paid employees leaving.

Georgia Tech officials said McKenna’s retirement is unrelated to the investigation.

McKenna was involved in discussions about whether Steven Swant, former executive vice president of administration and finance, could continue to be paid to be a board member of RIB, a German company that was doing work for Georgia Tech. Swant said McKenna agreed he could serve on the company’s board when the relationship started in 2015, according to a memo Swant wrote to Peterson.

In April, McKenna discussed conflict of interest concerns with Swant about his involvement on the board.

“[W]e have to be careful about the prohibition against using Institute resources for the benefit of a private company,” he wrote Swant. “We don’t want to give the impression that GT is paying you for your RIB work; instead, you are being compensated for the lost opportunity.”

Swant was one of four former employees earning six-figure salaries who used their positions to line their pockets, internal investigations have found. 

With little or no accountability, three misused taxpayer funds and exploited relationships with vendors. There were parties in a football suite, courtesy of a bookstore vendor. Golf outings during work hours. Routine meals and after-hours drinking billed to taxpayers.

Peterson fired Swant last month.

You can read The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s first story about what happened and what went wrong here.

Aisha Oliver-Staley, currently executive director of Affiliated Organizations, will replace McKenna effective Sept. 1.

Other changes include Georgia Tech’s Internal Auditing department will report directly to Peterson and to the University System of Georgia’s Vice Chancellor for Internal Audit. 

Also, Mark Demyanek, who’s worked nearly three decades in the USG and currently Georgia Tech’s assistant vice president for Facilities Management’s Operations and Maintenance, will become interim senior vice president for administration, leading campus services, human resources, the police department and other areas.

Former Vice President of Campus Services Paul Strouts convinced Georgia Tech bookstore contractor Barnes & Noble to pay $35,000 a year to Georgia Tech Athletic Association for a football suite mainly used by Strouts, his friends, his relatives, Tech employees and their friends and relatives, an internal audit found.

USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley asked Peterson by Aug. 15 to present an action plan that addresses the problems found in the audit and investigations.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will be updating this story.  Check back later.

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