As the state prepares to conduct an inquiry into the use of college resources by Georgia Regents University’s president for a family wedding, other instances of personal use of school vehicles have come to light.
GRU officials confirmed Thursday that university police cars have been used in the past to pick up President Ricardo Azziz’s children from school. University spokeswoman Christen Carter said patrol cars were used twice to transport the children from Augusta Preparatory Day School in Martinez.
Carter said both cases occurred more than 18 months ago and were “emergent incidents” in which university police were requested by a member of the Azziz family who was unable to pick up the children “due to an unexpected incident which made them unavailable.”
Carter said those were the only such incidents, to her knowledge.
“This is not the normal practice, and the Azziz family realized the potential concerns and have not
repeated the request,” she said.
The Georgia Board of Regents’ Office of Internal Audit and Compliance is responding to a request by Azziz on Wednesday for an “impartial assessment” of the issues and actions connected with Saturday’s wedding, which was held for his niece at the president’s home at 920 Milledge Road, known as Twin Gables.
John Millsaps, the spokesman for the Board of Regents, said field work for the assessment will begin next week.
GRU officials have acknowledged the use of state resources at the event and said the Azziz family planned to reimburse the state $416 for the use of a marked patrol car and a university system shuttle bus to ferry guests from the hotel to the event and to other locations. Four GRU police officers also worked as security for the wedding.
Millsaps said that the results of the inquiry would be made available to the public once completed but that there was no timeline on how long that might take.
Millsaps could offer no specifics, but it is expected the review will determine whether state resources were used in accordance with GRU and Board of Regents policy.
The use of the shuttle bus appears to be contrary to both.
A university policy memorandum dated Sept. 14 states, “The university should not provide transportation to the President or his family for personal business, including transportation to and from schools, vacations, etc.”
Carter provided an invoice for the shuttle bus and patrol car, billing the groom, Brian Straessle, who is not a university employee.
The invoice also appears to run counter to a Board of Regents policy governing the use of university property. The policy states that university property cannot be “removed from the campus of an institution for use on either a rental or loan basis for personal use.”
The shuttle bus was used to carry guests from the Partridge Inn to the wedding, and to a photo shoot at Savannah Rapids Park in Columbia County.
Carter said university shuttles have been used before by other administrations for similar activities,
which is why it was offered this time.
“During a discussion with the Azziz family, Public Safety offered the use of a shuttle, remembering the shuttles were also used as a form of transportation at events (i.e. wedding) held at Twin Gables during the administrations of two previous university presidents,” she wrote in an e-mail.