Peer review for Okogbaa

The former director of the Institute on Black Life, who allegedly misused more than $175,000 in grant money, will be the subject of a peer review, according to Vice Provost Dwayne Smith, who works closely with USF’s faculty.

Geoffrey Okogbaa, also an engineering professor, is still on paid annual leave after an audit claimed he mismanaged more than $175,000, some of which was supposed to help fund after-school programs for low-income students in the area.

Okogbaa is under criminal investigation for felony theft, and his case has been sent to the state attorney’s office, which has yet to decide whether to charge him, according to the state attorney’s public information office.

Typically, peer review sessions evaluate a professor’s academic performance.

“What does complicate this case is that it’s a potential legal case,” Smith said. “What often happens during an academic case is that we don’t really have to constrict a panel to these strict parameters.

“The legal aspect is out of our hands at this point, and it’s up to the state attorney to decide whether to charge him. And we also view it in the context of his academic duties, so we definitely will consider it in that context.”

Any recommendation made by the six-person panel as to what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken will be sent to the Provost’s Office and subject to a grievance process, should Okogbaa choose to file one.

Smith said the peer review committee will analyze two audits from USF’s Office of Audit and Compliance, as well as a response from Okogbaa, if he chooses to submit one. Smith said USF is planning to send Okogbaa copies of the audits Monday.

It’s unclear when the peer review will take place because USF would have to wait to hear back from Okogbaa before commencing, Smith said.

In addition, Smith said the process of confirming panel members and approval of the audits from General Counsel has not yet been completed.

During an executive faculty senate meeting Wednesday, faculty senate President Michael Barber said two of the six panel members will be from the senate. Barber, who said he worked with Smith to help identify possible panel members, expressed pleasure about the representation.

“We did much better than last time,” he said during the meeting, referring to past peer review sessions that didn’t include faculty senate members. “We made good progress.”

Neither Barber nor Smith disclosed the names of any potential peer review panel members. Barber said he expects the peer review to happen “soon.”

Okogbaa, who is not teaching this semester, has been at USF since 1989. The audit claimed he used grant money to purchase plane tickets and lodging for himself and his wife, as well as a 42-inch plasma TV for his office and dozens of unusable pieces of computer equipment.