University of Connecticut faulted for “excessive compensation,” misuse of repair funds

The University of Connecticut made a number of excessive payments to staff who had either stepped down from management positions or left the university, according to a state audit released yesterday. In one instance a former manager – identified as vice provost for the university libraries, Brinley Franklin – was paid his full management salary of $202,829 to be an off-site, part-time consultant.

Auditors also found a manager was paid vacation accrual time in the amount of $90,461 for 120 days of vacation time, twice the allowable 60 days of vacation accrual.

Although, the 60 day vacation time payout can be extended if approved by the board of trustees the audit notes that UConn was unable to provide documentation the board had made such an approval. The auditor’s concluded the manager had been paid $45,230 of unauthorized payments and recommended recovering the funds

UConn defended the payment by noting the manager had transferred from another state agency that allowed 120 days of vacation accrual and he was permitted to “carryover” the vacation days.

Other employees were given paid leave before “involuntary separation.” Of the six employees reviewed by the auditors, five of them received a combined total of $337,455 in payment while on leave pending separation.

The report states, “UConn lost the opportunity to benefit from the services these employees could have provided.”

When reached for comment, UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz pointed to UConn’s responses in the audit.

Ritz noted, however, that Franklin was “assigned to complete multiple complex projects of significant value to the university, working both on and off campus. In at least one case, the university would have had to hire a consultant to accomplish the work the employee completed during this transition period.”

The excessive payments were just part of the audit which faulted the public university for allocating $49.1 million of UConn 2000 funds to projects that were not authorized by state statute. The UConn 2000 project is a “massive infrastructure improvement program” established by law in Public Act 95-230. The law authorized $980 million in state bonding for the renovation projects.

The auditor’s report, however, states that part of these funds were used for projects outside the scope of state law because it used maintenance funds to expand the seating area in the Putnam Refectory and construct an fMRI Center in the Philips Communication Science Center. The statute says that maintenance funds cannot be “aimed at expanding the capacity of an asset.”

UConn, in its response, said it viewed the costs as “efficient and effective use of state resources generally, as well as an appropriate use of DM/Renovation funding under UCONN 2000.”

The UConn 2000 project has been the source of a number of problems over the past decade include serious fire safety code violations. The issues eventually led to formation of construction oversight committee.

The university was also cited for not awarding no-bid contracts to companies that should have competed with others to secure a better price, including a $12 million contract for electron microscopes and study-abroad programs in both Italy and England.

According to state statutes an agency must allow competitive bidding when there is more than one company able to supply equipment or service. The auditors determined that there were “a number” of different companies that could have fulfilled this request.

UConn acknowledged the auditor’s recommendation but stated its contract for the microscopes was based on a “thorough and detailed scholarly analysis.”

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Marc E. Fitch

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