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Audit indicts second English professor of misusing funds

According to a pair of reports last week from the university’s office of audit and compliance, USF English professor Joe Moxley is guilty of misusing nearly $75,000. However, Moxley said he is a victim in a series of misunderstandings.

In 1999, Moxley received a $55,000 gift from Microsoft Corp. to go with nearly $50,000 worth of software, all to support his research in writing and its relation to technology.

That money, a report released Thursday stated, was used to reimburse Moxley for meals and fare on trips to, among other places, New York, London and Paris, which the auditors said is in violation of university policy because they were for personal benefit and were not valid business expenditures.

However, according to Moxley, the money was intended as a gift to him to further his research and writing, leaving the spending up to his discretion.

“The audit office’s finding represents their understanding that the Microsoft funding that I received was a grant rather a gift. This contradicts my understanding from Microsoft that the funding was a gift to be used to support my research, writing and teaching; it contradicts Microsoft’s stated understanding that their funding was a restricted gift with no specific line of work associated with it,” Moxley said.

Moxley provided USF with a letter, dated June 8, from Microsoft employee Roberto Bamberger, who said the money was supplied as a gift to Moxley.

“This was a gift to Joseph M. Moxley (to) support his research, writing and computer-related activities as well as the work of his colleagues,” Bamberger said in the letter. “Microsoft made this gift as a gift rather than as a grant to afford Dr. Moxley maximum flexibility in using these funds. Consistent with providing this as a gift, there was no specific line of work associated with the gift. There were no explicit or implicit deliverables associated with the project.”

In the other report, released Tuesday, Moxley was accused of using a pair of university servers to manage an online textbook from an outside publisher. He was paid $20,000 plus 15 percent royalty on sales for the book, the report said. However, investigators said, he did not receive approval to use USF equipment, staff or students in maintaining the project.

The report also said Moxley did not properly fill out the paperwork regarding $34,500 in publishing contracts over a four-year span.

In addition, Moxley was accused of submitting some receipts for reimbursement twice, which he called an honest mistake and has said he apologized for.

Moxley added that his situation has brought to light scenarios other faculty members may not have been aware of. He told investigators he thought that, because his papers were approved by his department and by the College of Arts and Sciences, that everything was acceptable. He told the auditors that he thought those reviewing the paperwork would exclude invalid items.

“Because all of my paperwork was processed by the English department, the CAS budget office and USF Development, I did not realize that there were any problems,” he said. “I am now working with the university to rectify these oversights.

“There are many, many rules that faculty are not aware of. For example, I now know that faculty are supposed to get written approval from their department chair prior to any travel; yet, as far as I know, most faculty are unaware of this policy. I really think most faculty (members) are unaware that they are supposed to complete outside-activities forms when they earn book royalties.”

The reports are the latest in a series of events making public a chaotic scene in the English department. In April, former department chairman Phillip Sipiora was forced to step down after a similar audit report found him responsible for misuse of nearly $70,000. Another report in May said professor Debra Jacobs used a textbook that she co-authored for classes without the necessary approval and that she failed to properly report outside contracts.

“(USF administrators) are troubled by the findings, and we are determining what disciplinary action and policy changes may be necessary,” USF spokeswoman Michelle Carlyon said in an e-mail. “We will explore ways to strengthen our training programs and to ensure we have effective checks and balances.

“We have said from the beginning we would vigorously investigate allegations within the department. The fact we uncovered several significant issues in a short period of time shows we’re serious about addressing these problems.”