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Audit: Staff member spent more than $37,000 on University card

Officials from the College of Education and the At-Risk Institute at USF are revamping business expense policies after a former employee racked up more than $37,000 in undocumented travel and expense purchases on a University business credit card.

Audit reports released Tuesday revealed former director of the Florida Charter School Resource Center Christine Noe used a University purchasing card from July 1, 2003, to Dec. 5, 2005, to pay for the cost of airfare, rental cars, hotel stays, veterinary bills and an iPod with accessories, among other transactions.

“We have been taking steps to implement a variety of management types of controls relating to providing greater training for staff in the area of travel and P-card and the like, and I think that the net effect of that is that the Florida Charter School Resource Center will be further strengthened after this unfortunate situation,” Dean of Education Colleen Kennedy said.

Charter schools are independent of the public school system and are made up of a larger percentage of minority and economically disadvantaged children than most traditional schools.

Since Noe failed to document the relevance of her purchases, it is not immediately known how excessive they were.

“We don’t have any documentation supporting the necessity of her job, so therefore it can’t be charged to the grant,” USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said. “It just means that there is no evidence to show any correlation between that visit or that charge to her job.”

Noe was put on leave in December and resigned from the University in January. The center’s Assistant Director Kathy Whetsell and Accounting Coordinator Carol Spiers may also be fired if they do not respond to allegations that they misused University money.

Calls to Noe and Spiers went unanswered late Wednesday evening. Whetsell said she had been instructed by the University not to talk about the incident.

According to Wade, University Police is investigating to see whether criminal charges will be brought.

All three employees worked out of an office in the Human Services building, where their duties included training principals and staff at various charter schools around the state.

The report, which listed all of Noe’s expenses, called for tighter managerial controls.

“Our review identified serious control deficiencies,” the review stated. “Which, if not corrected, will result in errors and irregularities not being prevented and detected timely and will result in grant disallowances.”

Funding for the FCSRC comes from a $700,000 federal grant to help charter schools throughout the state, and the undocumented charges will have to be refunded to the grant issuer, which will be repaid through external funds from the College of Education.

The FCSRC employs five staff members, one of whom is in charge of a purchasing card.

The report was issued five months after a state audit found the University’s cash-collection process is in need of stricter control and after $275,000 in uncashed checks and invoices were found inside an office in the English Language Institute.

University officials have deposited approximately $100,000 of the uncashed monies and have consolidated the University’s cash-collection agencies down to 52. Only 94 other agencies will be able to handle money through credit card transactions.

But the incident concerning Noe and the undocumented expenses was not a University-wide problem, Wade said.

“ELI was a problem with cash collection processes,” Wade said. “What happened with the purchase cards (is) they are issued to specific people depending on their job responsibilities. This person was given a P-card because her job responsibilities entailed traveling throughout the state to work with charter schools, which is what she did as well as going to conferences and different workshops nationwide.”