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Regents audit finds GRU officials violated policy

Friday, May 17, 2013 2:41 PM
Last updated Saturday, May 18, 2013 6:07 AM
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Georgia Regents Univer­sity officials violated state Board of Regents policy when its vehicles and personnel were used to support a private wedding at the home of GRU President Ricardo Azziz, according to an auditor’s report released Fri­day.

The report on the “special review” by the university system’s Office of Internal Au­dit and Compliance also found that GRU officials violated policy in allowing more than $97,000 in renovations at the president’s Milledge Road home without seeking board approval.

Chief Audit Officer John M. Fuchko III wrote that his office “did not detect intent on the part of GRU senior administrators to violate Board Policy or misuse state resources,” but rather a “lack of awareness of relevant Board Policy and applicable regulations.”

Azziz had asked to have the board look into questions raised by The Augusta Chron­icle about the use of a university shuttle bus and police at a wedding April 20 at the state-owned president’s home, known as Twin Gables.

The bus was used to ferry wedding guests from the Partridge Inn to the wedding and to a photo shoot at Sa­vannah Rapids Park in Columbia County. Four university police officers provided security and split a $400 gratuity for their services, the report said.

The auditor’s report said senior GRU administrators, including the president, discussed using the shuttle and agreed that it would be more appropriate to rent a private vehicle for the guests.

“However, this decision was not communicated to the GRU Chief of Police, who had already arranged for an institution vehicle,” the report said. “The GRU Chief of Police did receive authorization from his supervisor, GRU General Counsel, to use the bus.”

The report found that two police vehicles were used at the wedding, even though GRU officials had originally reported only one patrol car was provided. The report said GRU Po­lice Chief Bill McBride was not aware that a second unmarked police vehicle was used at the event.

The report questioned whether it was proper for police to work at the event at all.

The auditors found that when McBride arranged for him and three other officers to volunteer, one of the officers was an hourly employee and thus “could not volunteer under federal labor regulations.”

As for the other officers, the report said, “it is questionable whether the remaining officers would truly be considered volunteers in these circumstances. The three salaried officers were on institution property, in uniform, and performing services consistent with those for which they receive a salary.”

The report found it was a violation of policy for the officers to receive a gratuity for their services, even though they “did not perceive they were on duty.”

Auditors found that a GRU housekeeper and groundskeeper also performed services for the wedding in exchange for a gratuity.

As part of the university’s corrective actions, GRU officials stated that “all university staff, including the police officers, the housekeeper and the groundskeeper, will return any gratuities they were given, and that money will be deposited with the university. All those staff will be paid through the university in accordance with our normal policies.”

Any additional costs identified for personnel or vehicles in the wedding will be billed to the groom, Brian Straessle, according to the report.

Auditors found other irregularities in how the president’s home was being managed. The report said a housekeeper assigned to Twin Gables was providing services “prohibited by Board Policy, such as washing dishes,” and was being paid on the side for doing extra work there, which also is prohibited.

Auditors identified $97,907 in expenditures and obligations for projects at the home, including a third-floor renovation, for which GRU officials didn’t obtain board approval.

The report said GRU provided a cost analysis for improvements dating to fiscal year 2001 at Twin Gables showing that more than $363,000 in work was done, none of which appeared to have been approved by the Board of Regents.

“Going forward, GRU must obtain prior review and approval for all proposed upgrades to the president’s home,” the report said.

In response to the findings, Azziz listed a series of corrective actions and responses, including having himself and 19 members of his senior staff attend a six-hour training session on board policies, which was conducted Tuesday by Fuchko. GRU Chief Integrity Officer Jim Rush will prepare a training plan for the “wider university community,” according to the report.

Azziz issued a statement Friday taking responsibility for the “issues identified in the report.”

“GRU is a large, complex, and evolving institution and the transformative efforts we are undertaking have no precedent. Notwithstanding, I am sorry that in this situation my staff and I were not aware of relevant policies, relying instead on past practice,” the statement said.

University system Chan­cel­lor Hank Huckaby said he accepted the findings.

“I appreciate the work that has been done and am satisfied that Georgia Re­gents University’s action plan will address the issues identified,” his statement said. “Dr. Azziz and the GRU community have our support, and we will continue to provide appropriate oversight.”

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grinder48
1357
Points
grinder48 05/17/13 - 02:52 pm
0
0

A Formal Reprimand

Unpublished

OK, there are to be "corrective actions". What about punitive actions? "... did not detect intent" but "a lack of awareness"?! So the head of the school is not aware of BOR policies? This is a sham, azziz needs AT A MINIMUM to be formally reprimanded.

agrit
178
Points
agrit 05/17/13 - 03:02 pm
10
2

Sigh

Oh for crying out loud!! Azziz and the people that fell on the sword for Azziz (once again) have been around long enough to know better.

Frank I
1132
Points
Frank I 05/17/13 - 03:11 pm
9
2

of course he'll accept their

of course he'll accept their findings.. all he got was a "don't do that anymore", and it will all be billed to the groom (hahaha, who are we kidding here) who I'm sure will receive a check from Azziz..

Truth Matters
5204
Points
Truth Matters 05/17/13 - 03:14 pm
9
0

Ethics

Seems like all state employees are expected to follow ethical practices except those elected persons under the Dome in Atlanta.

Hopefully they all learn and "sin no more."

Sweet son
8257
Points
Sweet son 05/17/13 - 03:17 pm
7
2

Read These for More Info!

http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/GRU+Review+(PDF).pdf

Azziz and the Chief Bill McBride aren't looking good!! Sorry that the supposed "volunteers" got caught up in the mess these two guys made!

Fiat_Lux
13863
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/18/13 - 01:52 pm
11
2

Did you notice the extensive use of the "royal We"?

Everybody is falling on their swords and getting more training because nobody will say "boo" to him about anything--except Sheryl Strum Kenney, God bless her!--so he just assumed...and then largely gets his rear end covered and encouraged not to do it again without checking first. Gosh. I'll bet he's a changed man.

Somehow, that letter/response/whatever doesn't exactly come across as his taking personal responsibility for the things that he shouldn't have done. Far too many passive verbs being used to actually be saying "Yeah, I did it. It was wrong/a mistake/stupid/short-sighted/arrogant and I'm sorry. It won't happen again/I'm a changed man."

Peons understand the double talk but never get away with using it themselves. They still get shown the door, sometimes even if they were following orders under protest. Seen that happen before, more than once.

ergsweetone4u
21
Points
ergsweetone4u 05/17/13 - 03:16 pm
10
3

Seriously?

'The report said GRU Police Chief Bill McBride was not aware that a second unmarked police vehicle was used at the event.'

Seriously...doesn't anyone communicate that that school or do they all just do as they please??

As far as I'm concerned, Azziz and anyone else at 'GRU' who was involved with this fiasco has just plain old used and abused the system they were put in charge of! You minuz well call them (all) corrupt and crooked!

traumaqueen
43
Points
traumaqueen 05/17/13 - 04:01 pm
13
2

Am I understanding this

Am I understanding this correctly? Dr. Azziz is educated enough & competent enough to oversee millions of dollars, life saving research, thousands of employees & students, a dental school, a medical school, the place formerly known as ASU, a level 1 trauma center, one of the best children's medical centers in the southeast, etc...but not expected to be smart enough to know the rules/laws that govern all of the above? I must be missing something here.

The Bean
80
Points
The Bean 05/17/13 - 04:21 pm
2
3

Huh?

“All university staff, including the police officers, the housekeeper and the groundskeeper, will return any gratuities they were given, and that money will be deposited with the university. All those staff will be paid through the university in accordance with our normal policies.”

I'm confused. All the "little" people who provided services for the event will return their gratuity to the University. Will they, then, be cut a paycheck for the extra time, or is that considered part of their duties and they will receive no further compensation?

scoopdedoop64
2235
Points
scoopdedoop64 05/17/13 - 04:50 pm
3
2

Wondering

I am wondering if the people that did those services return the money back to Azziz will they ever get paid? And what if they don't have the money anymore...duh....I spent it all for a new stuffed toy for my girlfriend.

ragingbull
945
Points
ragingbull 05/17/13 - 04:57 pm
4
3

“GRU is a large, complex, and

“GRU is a large, complex, and evolving institution and the transformative efforts we are undertaking have no precedent. Notwithstanding, I am sorry that in this situation my staff and I were not aware of relevant policies, relying instead on past practice,” the statement said. “The external review that we requested has resulted in clarification and our better understanding of University System of Georgia Board of Regents’ policies, and we have already begun corrective actions to address each of the issues identified.”
What has the consolidation of the two schools have to do with this? It is apparent that he has no respect for the Georgia Board of Regents, who have royally bowed to him, or the people of this community. If he was relying on past practice, it must have been done some where else, as I do not recall any thing such as this happening here in the last 40 years. Maybe it was accepted practice in Peru or where ever he came from. And also what corrective actions have been taken to insure this does not happen again? How ignorant does he think we are?

tabletop
28
Points
tabletop 05/17/13 - 05:34 pm
5
1

Past Practices

Azziz said that he relied on past practices. This must mean that he has been doing this before and not asked about it. He has always been intellectual dishonest and now his unethical conduct has surpassed that. Who would want to go to a doctor that graduates from that school?

nocnoc
31012
Points
nocnoc 05/17/13 - 07:20 pm
6
1

Foxes guarding Foxes.

.
Foxes guarding Foxes.

Nothing sticks to the GRU Teflon Don

Stunned 2
2267
Points
Stunned 2 05/17/13 - 10:46 pm
3
0

Challenge! Sue! Report them to the Labor Department!!!

Murky - Murky waters.....True, exempt State employees should not be reimbursed for Over-time, but when these Officers - on the State payroll - 'Volunteered' to 'patrol' a Wedding for the niece of a State College President....they are working for a private (Maryland) citizen - ('the groom had agreed to pay them') - not the State of Georgia. Obviously, this was NOT a normal function for the State of Georgia to throw a wedding for a couple from Maryland. These officers need to be paid. This is blatant thievery! Any citizen in this state, no matter what their FSLA status is (Exempt or Non-Exempt), can work another job and receive pay. Challenge! Sue! Report them to the Labor Department!!! The Dept. of Labor needs to investigate this, not 'GRU' officials.
From my understanding of Labor Law, The Labor Department will rule in favor for payment that is the most advantageous to the employee. GRU should review each employee's pay individually.
At this point, I would suggest that each of these employees write their employer and explain the hardship and burden that they will endure because of this huge employer's demands for return of their wages. The U.S. set up the Department of Labor and passed labor laws for this specific purpose - The big employer taking advantage of the working man/woman. The GRU mess has all the makings for future Labor Law textbook examples.

KSL
106025
Points
KSL 05/17/13 - 09:37 pm
2
1

Start at the top

Get rid of the chancellor. Then get rid of Azziz.

gargoyle
10233
Points
gargoyle 05/17/13 - 09:39 pm
4
0

King Azziz is too cool for

King Azziz is too cool for ethics, besides he's got rid of anyone who could spell ethics. Reading the MCG press release he seems to be of the opinion that everyone failed him, his acts were pure and in the best intrests of the unwashed Augusta populace.

my.voice
4194
Points
my.voice 05/17/13 - 09:57 pm
3
0

Pathetic, but those of you

Pathetic, but those of you who expected different, please raise your hand.

Bodhisattva
4949
Points
Bodhisattva 05/18/13 - 07:07 am
1
0

Did Azziz stick around for

Did Azziz stick around for the entire six hour training session?

jwarner6
63
Points
jwarner6 05/18/13 - 08:06 am
3
0

Not ignorance of the law

Azziz behavior is not ignorance of the law; it is arrogance of power.

I'm Back Again
307
Points
I'm Back Again 05/18/13 - 08:29 am
0
0

So where is the punishment?

Unpublished

So where is the punishment? Ignorance of the law is no defense!!!

...point to ponder
641
Points
...point to ponder 05/18/13 - 09:19 am
2
0

Lies....falsehoods....

After Huckabee's speech here the other day do you think he would do anything else but accept the findings and do nothing else to the straw man that breaks the law....any other state employee who committed these violations would have been fired.

Shameful ...wasteful... Unethical .... The Board of Regents.

mypointofview
26
Points
mypointofview 05/18/13 - 09:21 am
3
0

arrogance of power it is!

Nope. He didn't accept responsibility at all. He wasn't aware of these policies because he didn't bother to read them. Why should he anyway? He's above the rules!

rmwhitley
5081
Points
rmwhitley 05/18/13 - 11:05 am
0
0

Augusta,

Unpublished

remember, your top-notch officials gave the approval for the "ricky ricardo show"!

nocnoc
31012
Points
nocnoc 05/18/13 - 11:51 am
4
0

It never ceases to amaze me.

All the people that hold BS, MS, PHD degrees that
are in charge of something that they fire others for but some how NEVER KNEW The policy applied to them?

IRS, BENGHAZI, Illegal WIRE TAPS, Burglaries, and now GRU.

It must be a educated thing I don't understand.

justputtin
1382
Points
justputtin 05/18/13 - 10:50 pm
0
0

Untouchable

azziz is untouchable. We need Elliot Ness!

prov227
2291
Points
prov227 05/19/13 - 05:39 pm
0
0

Good verse for Dr. Azziz to memorize ...

“Therefore, if you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?”

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