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Audit clears Student Affairs VP

No financial wrongdoing found, but further review pending

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2007

Updated: Thursday, September 4, 2008 11:09

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Jennifer Meningall

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An internal University investigation has cleared Jennifer Meningall, one of USF's highest-ranking administrators, of any misconduct or illegal activity in her handling of Student Affairs' finances and management.

The results of a three-month audit, released Wednesday, found some accounting inconsistencies and inappropriate practices within Student Affairs but concluded that Meningall, vice president of Student Affairs, had generally acted within University guidelines when hiring employees and allocating department funds.

"There is no evidence that Jennifer Meningall is guilty of any misconduct," University spokesman Ken Gullette said. "Inappropriate does not mean illegal or misconduct."

James Dragna, formerly second-in-command in Student Affairs under Meningall, prompted the investigation with an e-mail sent to University heads, including President Judy Genshaft, that accused his former boss of money mismanagement and improper hiring practices.

In the e-mail, Dragna also alleged that Meningall had behaved in a hostile and physically abusive manner toward employees and discriminated against co-workers based on race and gender. These allegations were not part of the audit, but are now under investigation by the University's Diversity and Equal Opportunity (DEO) Office.

In a written statement, Meningall said she had requested the audit to clear her name. She said the report spoke for itself.

"The past two months have been very difficult in the wake of the e-mail making serious allegations that have taken a tremendous toll on morale and relationships within Student Affairs and throughout the University community," Meningall said.

She conceded that some procedures in Student Affairs needed reworking and said she would work to bring them in line with University policy.

The audit divided Dragna's allegations into 13 areas of investigation and found seven to be unfounded, two founded, one partially founded and two inconclusive. One was sent to the DEO for further investigation.

Among the allegations the report concluded to be unfounded: The use of about $450,000 in funds to hire unarmed security guards and pay outside consultants was unreasonable and wasteful.

That $17,026 used to entertain guests in skyboxes at USF football games was used by Meningall to host friends and other Student Affairs employees without any benefit for the University in mind.

Meningall forced an assistant to resign without cause.

Among those the report considered founded or partially founded: Student Health Services funds amounting to $380,922 were used to fund salaries for employees who had left the division and were no longer serving SHS.

More than $1 million in unused general funds from departments within Student Affairs - including nearly $126,000 in UP allocations - were inappropriately used to pay administrative salaries.

University policies for recruitment and hiring were violated.

Among those considered inconclusive: A pool of about $1.5 million from a two percent tax charged to auxiliary departments was not used in a way that justified the cost.

University discredits Dragna Dragna's allegations were made in an "improper and outrageous manner," according to a University press release.

The release also stated that Genshaft has contacted the University's lawyers and is exploring the possibility of legal action against Dragna.

"I'll support anyone's right to blow the whistle on wrongdoing," Genshaft said in the release. "But I won't tolerate character assassination."

Dragna said he had tried to voice his concerns through proper channels with Human Resources, but his complaints went unheard.

"My concern was that all the info wasn't being disseminated because complaints were not being tended to by HR," Dragna said. "I wasn't looking to punish anyone, but to bring out the truth."

Dragna said he met with the director of Human Resources, then with a member of the president's cabinet, who said she would set up an appointment with Genshaft. Dragna said the cabinet member also told him he would likely be fired for coming forward.

Shortly thereafter, Dragna said Meningall told him his one-year contract, which ended in late October, would not be renewed.

After reading the report, Dragna said it improperly focused on the procedural issues of Meningall's decisions, rather than the ethics behind them. He said the audit confirmed that Meningall had acted unethically.

"The president must have been reading a different report," Dragna said. "I feel the report confirmed most of my assertions."

He added that he was particularly disturbed that Genshaft had attacked him before all of his allegations had been fully investigated.

"The rest of my concerns, as regards (Meningall's) actions, emotional state and the culture of fear (in Student Affairs) will be covered by the DEO's pending investigation," Dragna said. "Her statement may serve to intimidate and further limit people from coming forward."

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