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Audit Report

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Washington State Auditor’s Office Whistleblower Report Western Washington University Report No. 1004241 Issue Date September 13, 2010 Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag September 13, 2010 Western Washington University Whatcom County Bellingham, Washington Report on Whistleblower Investigation Attached is the official report on Whistleblower case No. 09-074 at Western Washington University. The State Auditor’s Office received an assertion of improper governmental activity at the University. This assertion was submitted to us under the provisions of Chapter 42.40 of the Revised Code of Washington, the Whistleblower Act. We have investigated the assertion independently and objectively through interviews and by reviewing relevant documents. This report contains the result of our investigation. Questions about this report should be directed to Investigator Cheri Elliott at (360) 725-5358, or Director of Special Investigations Jim Brittain at (360) 902-0372. BRIAN SONNTAG, CGFM WASHINGTON STATE AUDITOR BS:cle cc: Catherine Riordan, Ph.D., Provost, Western Washington University Kim Herrenkohl, Internal Auditor, Western Washington University Insurance Building, P.O. Box 40021  Olympia, Washington 98504-0021  (360) 902-0370  TDD Relay (800) 833-6388 FAX (360) 753-0646  http://www.sao.wa.gov Whistleblower Investigation Report State of Washington Western ...
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Washington State Auditor’s Office

Whistleblower Report






Western Washington University







Report No. 1004241





Issue Date
September 13, 2010




Washington State Auditor
Brian Sonntag



September 13, 2010


Western Washington University
Whatcom County
Bellingham, Washington


Report on Whistleblower Investigation

Attached is the official report on Whistleblower case No. 09-074 at Western Washington
University.

The State Auditor’s Office received an assertion of improper governmental activity at the
University. This assertion was submitted to us under the provisions of Chapter 42.40 of the
Revised Code of Washington, the Whistleblower Act. We have investigated the assertion
independently and objectively through interviews and by reviewing relevant documents. This
report contains the result of our investigation.

Questions about this report should be directed to Investigator Cheri Elliott at (360) 725-5358, or
Director of Special Investigations Jim Brittain at (360) 902-0372.


BRIAN SONNTAG, CGFM
WASHINGTON STATE AUDITOR

BS:cle

cc: Catherine Riordan, Ph.D., Provost, Western Washington University
Kim Herrenkohl, Internal Auditor, Western Washington University


Insurance Building, P.O. Box 40021  Olympia, Washington 98504-0021  (360) 902-0370  TDD Relay (800) 833-6388
FAX (360) 753-0646  http://www.sao.wa.gov
Whistleblower Investigation Report

State of Washington
Western Washington University
Whatcom County


ABOUT THE INVESTIGATION

We received an assertion on June 18, 2009, questioning the time the Executive Director
of the University’s Center for International Studies spent in travel status and the
business purpose of the travel. Western Washington University spent more than
$38,000 on 22 trips the Director made inside and outside the United States during
18 months, from December 2007 until June 2009.


BACKGROUND

The subject started working at the University on December 1, 2007, as the Director of
the Center for International Studies; his starting annual salary was $105,000. In his
hiring letter, the University stated he was accepting an administrative position. Between
January 2008 and July 2009, he held a second full-time administrative job without
additional salary as the University’s Interim Executive Director of Extended Education
and Summer Programs.

During our investigation, we found that the University and the subject’s previous
employer, Wright State University in Ohio, had reviewed the subject’s travel practices.

Western Washington University Internal Review

In January 2009, the University issued a report on its internal investigation related to
concerns it received in October 2008 about the subject’s absences, failure to report
leave properly and use of University financial and employee resources.

The University found that between December 1, 2007, and October 2008, the subject
spent 48 percent of his time away from campus and did not submit leave slips for any of
that time. The internal review identified 109 absences, outlined below:

University-approved travel: 56 days.
Non-University-paid travel to a conference: four days. While the University did
not pay the subject’s travel expenses for these days, it did pay his salary. The
subject did not complete a travel authorization for these days, but the former
Provost stated he was aware of the travel.
Research performed off-campus: 22 days

Washington State Auditor’s Office
1
Planning for a conference: 13 days. The subject was vice president of the
Association of Canadian Studies in the United States (ACSUS). He stated he
was responsible for planning the group’s November 2009 conference in San
Diego.
Moving from Ohio to Bellingham: 11 days. The subject was absent from work
between December 18, 2007, and January 4, 2008, while he moved from Ohio to
Bellingham and made a stop in San Diego. According to the report, the letters of
offer did not indicate whether the subject could use University-paid time for his
move. The former President and former Provost stated neither had made a
verbal agreement with the subject about using University-paid time to move.
Other: The University’s report stated the subject said he was in Ohio for two days
in January 2008 and “out of town” one day in April 2008. It is not clear if these
absences were work-related.

The subject did not submit leave slips for any of these days. The subject stated he
considers himself a faculty member and, as such, would not accrue leave or need to
account for his absences. However, the subject is an administrative employee who
accrues leave and should follow the University’s leave policy. The subject received new
employee orientation in January 2008 that covered benefits, including leave.

The University’s report noted the subject’s first day of employment at the University was
December 1, 2007, and his resignation at Wright State University was effective
January 1, 2008.

The University’s report made six recommendations to the former University Provost on
ways to clarify expectations and improve controls over timekeeping for academic
administrators, such as the subject. The former Provost responded to all six
recommendations in the report by stating none required changes to established policy or
practice.

Wright State University Internal Review

In July 2005, Wright State University issued an internal audit report regarding travel in its
University Center for International Education, for which the subject was the Executive
Director at the time. Wright State’s audit identified a potential reimbursement to the
University of $13,787 for unauthorized and questionable travel expenditures. The audit
identified issues with the subject’s travel practices, including not attending full
conferences the University paid for, misrepresenting conference dates on his travel
authorizations, charging the University for expenses that were paid by outside
organizations and charging the University for personal travel, incorrectly charging
expenses to grants, failure to submit leave slips for personal absences and “significant
absenteeism.”

An audit update report from Wright State, issued March 31, 2006, stated the subject,
“with strong encouragement from the Provost,” resigned his position effective January 1,
2006, and “made all appropriate reimbursements” through the Office of the Controller.



Washington State Auditor’s Office
2
ASSERTIONS

1. The Executive Director of the Center for International Studies failed to follow state
travel regulations.

2. The Executive Director of the Center for International Studies is using his position to
secure time off without submitting leave requests for the proper accounting of his
time away from the University.


RESULTS

The results of our investigation are:

Assertion 1. We found reasonable cause to believe improper governmental action
occurred.

Assertion 2. We found reasonable cause to believe improper governmental action
occurred.

We reviewed the subject’s travel documents and the University’s internal review, and we
interviewed witnesses and the subject.

We found from December 1, 2007, through June 17, 2009, the subject took 22 trips and
charged the University approximately $38,755.28 in travel expenses.

To analyze the subject’s travel, we created the following chart with information from
travel authorizations and travel vouchers provided to us by the University, information
provided during an interview with the subject and information gathered through research
during this investigation.

Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
Dec. Umea and $1,732.93 Discuss faculty and See details below
10-17, Stockholm, student exchanges The subject stated the
2007 Sweden with Umea University University of Umea paid
Discuss collaboration for his lodging and
and exchange funding meals. However, travel
with the Swedish documents show
Social Research Western paid for all of
Council in Stockholm his lunches, one dinner
and one night’s lodging.
Dec. Ohio, No To move from Ohio to See details on San
18, San Diego expenses Bellingham Diego trip below
2007- submitted Stopped in San Diego
Jan. 4, to wait out bad winter
2008 weather
Jan. Victoria, B.C. $416.61 Border Regions
11-14, in Transitions
2008 Conference
Washington State Auditor’s Office
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Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
Feb. Washington, $2,733.45 Association of
14-22, D.C. International
2008 Educational
Administrators
conference, Feb. 17-
21
Met with federal grant
program Directors
Spent three days
reading grants
March San Diego $3,115.24 San Diego: 11 days of See details on San
14-30, Los Angeles planning for a Diego trip below
2008 San Francisco November 2009
conference
Los Angeles: One day
(3/25) in support of the
Canadian-American
Studies Program;
San Francisco: 5 days
for a conference held
March 26-29
April Seattle $519.24 World Affairs Council
13-15, and meeting at
2008 University of
Washington
Meeting at North
Seattle Community
College regarding
Extended Education
and Summer
Programs
April Denver $1,475.70 Presented a paper at
23-27, the Western Social
2008 Science Association
Conference
May Seattle $599.63 Planning meeting at
13-15, the University of
2008 Washington’s Jackson
School of International
Studies

May Washington, NAFSA: Association of He attended conference
23-29, D.C. International only on May 26-27. We
2008 Educators’ conference, verified the first day of
held May 23-30. the conference was
May 25. His travel form
states he did not work
Saturday, May 24 and
Sunday, May 25.


Washington State Auditor’s Office
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Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
May 29 Ottawa, Ontario International Council His travel form says he
- for Canadian Studies did not work June 1, but
June 2, $5,361.14 Conference May 27- Western paid for that
2008 for the entire 29 day’s hotel. In an
trip interview he stated he Meetings May 30-31
took no time off during
this trip. Because the
subject, who was
originally booked on a
flight returning from
Ottawa to Vancouver on
May 29, changed his
flight to a later date,
Western did not have
flight information for the
return flight. The subject
could not recall when
he left Ontario.
June Vancouver, B.C. Subject spent one
2-3, night there en route
2008 from Ottawa to
Victoria, B.C.
June Victoria, B.C. Met with B.C.
3-4, Government for
2008 Intergovernmental
Affairs for a meeting
that lasted a couple of
hours. He was trying to
find a speaker to come
to Whatcom County to
discuss the 2010
Olympics.
June Vancouver, B.C. CPSA Conference
4-5, from May 31-June 8 at
2008 the University of British
Columbia
June 6 Return to
Bellingham
July Vancouver, B.C. $1,494.55 Pacific Northwest
21-24, Economic Region
2008 Summit
Aug. Norway $6,179.37 Norway: Nordic Western paid $189 for
4-13, Sweden Association for the subject to park his
2008 Canadian Studies car at the airport in
conference Aug. 6-9 Seattle during this trip.
Sweden: Finalize
exchange agreement
between Umea and
Western Aug. 10-13


Washington State Auditor’s Office
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Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
Sept. Albuquerque, $1,266.95 Western Social
18-20, NM Science Association
2008 Board Meeting
Sept. Vancouver, B.C. $393.89 Delivered a paper at See details below
28-29, the International
2008 Security Conference at
the University of British
Columbia on Sept. 29
Oct. Ottawa, Ontario $2,797.17 To attend Enders The conference was
16-26 Travel Fulbright Conference held on October 24.
documents and meeting(s) at the Although the travel
state lodging Univ. of Ottawa documents do not
paid by October 16-26 to reference any other
organizers further the mission of conference, the subject
for 16-21. the International stated he attended the
Borders and Studies Center. Borders and Bridges
Bridges conference in Montreal,
organizers which was held October
confirmed 17-18. He also stated
payment of he traveled to Waterloo,
two or three Ontario to discuss
nights. Enders’ new website.
The subject stated he
took no time off.
Nov. Victoria, B.C. $356.22 Briefed the B.C.
6-7 government regarding
the recent U.S.
election.
Discussed
collaborative projects
between Western and
the B.C. government.
Jan. San Diego $858.80, not Hosted North See details below
7-13, including American Perspectives
2009 airfare, on Borders and
which was Security Conference
paid by on Jan. 12.
subject and Conducted a dry run
Canadian for November 2009
government ASCUS conference
Jan. Portland $0; subject Attended Pacific
29-31, paid all Northwest Canadian
2009 costs Studies Consortium to
further Western’s
mission

Washington State Auditor’s Office
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Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
Feb. New York City $1,204.26, International Studies Western paid more than
15-19, not including Association $300 per night because
2009 airfare, 2 Conference the subject booked the
nights in hotel too late to stay at
hotel and 2 a hotel offering a
days per conference rate. For the
diem, which last two nights of this
were paid by trip, the subject
subject checked out of this
hotel and paid for the
lodging.
March South Korea $2,992.86 Met with university and Subject flew out of
14-28, Mongolia government Bellingham airport;
2009 Japan representatives in all Western paid airport
three locations to parking for two weeks.
discuss current The travel voucher has
agreements and to no information for seven
work on additional of the travel days.
recruitment efforts. Some costs were
Another Western covered by the
employee University of Japan and
accompanied him. the University of Korea.
April Albuquerque, $1,220.86, Attended WSSA Two other Western
14-18, N.M. not including conference and made employees attended,
2009 airfare; a presentation and flying out of Bellingham
subject paid was part of a panel. on April 15 and April 16.
his own Conference was held The subject flew out of
airfare April 15-18. Vancouver and Western
paid airport parking of
nd$114.56; 2 traveler
rdpaid $28; 3 traveler
paid $43 taxi fare.
May Los Angeles $1,395.79 NAFSA annual Travel form states
27- conference, held May NAFSA paid for hotel.
June 1, 24-29. Subject In an interview he
2009 presented research at stated he stayed in a
conference. private residence. The
subject attended May Concluded
28-29 but Western paid negotiations with three
full conference price; he German universities.
Documentation does stated it was probably
easier to fill out the form not state what subject
that way. He stated he negotiated.
traveled to San Diego
May 29 through June 1
to work on the ACSUS
conference.

Washington State Auditor’s Office
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Travel Destination(s) Travel Subject’s explanation Other information
dates expenses for trip
paid by
Western
June Montreal, $748.87 Attended Fulbright Fulbright stated it did
8-10, Quebec meeting. not host a meeting but
2009 its CEO was invited to Subject stated he
attend an Enders presented a plan for
Advisory Council the Enders
Meeting. Symposium to the
Board Chair at his law
office.
June Valdivia, Chile $1,891.75; Negotiated agreement
10-17, meals were between Western and
2009 paid by the Universidad de Chile
subject to facilitate student
exchanges.

Total trips: 22 Total travel costs Western paid for subject’s travel: $38,755.28*
* Does not include subject’s salary or benefits

Trips to Umea University in Sweden

The subject traveled to Sweden in December 2007 for meetings with Umea University to
discuss faculty and student exchanges and with the Swedish Social Research Council in
Stockholm to discuss collaboration and exchange funding. The subject purchased his
airfare for the trip to Sweden while he was still employed by Wright State University but
had accepted the position at Western. The subject stated that although he purchased
the airfare while he was at Wright, he had Western in mind because he thought it and
Umea “would be a good fit”.

The subject returned to Umea in August 2009. He stated he did so to finalize the
exchange agreement between Western and Umea.

Witnesses indicated that although it is necessary to conduct a site visit to universities to
assess the campus and staff before arranging an exchange program, a site visit is not
necessary to finalize the agreement. The subject had an exchange agreement with
Umea when he was employed at Wright State. According to his resume he was a
visiting professor at Umea in 1998, 1999, and 2002 and received an honorary doctorate
from Umea in 2004.

Witnesses stated that after the exchange agreement was in place, Umea sent six
students to Western for a total of 12 quarters, while one Western student went to Umea
for two quarters, resulting in a 10-quarter deficit of $20,520 for Western. The subject
stated the goal is to have a one-to-one ratio within five years, but for now the only
interest in Umea has come from one student.

Considering the subject’s longstanding relationship with the university in Umea and the
fact that he was already familiar with its curriculum and campus, we are questioning
whether traveling to Umea twice was a prudent use of state resources as referenced in
the State Administrative and Accounting Manual.

Washington State Auditor’s Office
8