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University Presidents Play Hanky Panky With Taxpayer Dollars

Message Roger Shuler

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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

We noted in our previous segment, that an audit in summer 2003 examined the spending habits of University of Tennessee President John Shumaker.
The audit would produce all kinds of damaging and embarrassing information about Shumaker, which was widely dessiminated in the Tennessee press. A torrent of bad news eventually led to Shumaker's resignation in August of '03.
Interestingly, the audit also produced damaging and embarrassing information about Shumaker's "close personal friend," UAB President Carol Garrison. The news generally was hushed up in the mainstream Alabama press, and Garrison managed to keep her job--even though she twice was implicated in actions that involved misuse of public funds.
The first episode involved Shumaker's use of the University of Tennessee airplane to make repeated trips to Birmingham for visits with Garrison, his former colleague at the University of Louisville. Tennessee officials determined that those trips were largely personal in nature, and Shumaker repaid the university almost $25,000.
As for Garrison, she has remained quiet on the subject. I'm not aware of any reporter from Alabama, or elsewhere, asking her a few simple questions:
* Why did you go along with a scheme to use public resources for personal pleasure?
* Didn't you owe a duty to the taxpayers of Tennessee to make sure their resources were not used in a wasteful way?
* What do these events say about your own stewardship of public funds?
The second episode involved a three-day conference in San Antonio. Shumaker resigned on August 8, 2003, but that didn't stop the bad news for him. Two weeks later, a UT official told lawmakers that Shumaker had spent three nights in a Texas hotel room with a female colleague and misled auditors about it.
Who was the female colleague? UAB President Carol Garrison.
In an article dated August 22, 2003, the Chattanooga Free-Press reported:

Former University of Tennessee President John W. Shumaker spent three nights in a Texas hotel room with a female colleague and then misled university auditors, an auditor told lawmakers Thursday.

Mark Paganelli, executive director of UT's auditing department, was one of five top administrators from the Knoxville campus questioned under oath Thursday by the General Assembly's Fiscal Review Committee.

Mr. Paganelli said Dr. Shumaker misled auditors who asked why the name of Dr. Carol Garrison, chancellor of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, had appeared on a hotel bill paid by UT.

Shumaker apparently had a hard time explaining that one to UT officials, the Free-Press reported:

Dr. Shumaker initially told auditors he gave his hotel room to Dr. Garrison, a former colleague at the University of Louisville, when she was unable to get a room at a conference last December in San Antonio, Texas.

Dr. Shumaker told auditors Dr. Garrison was walking in the rain to the conference, so he agreed to let her have his room, according to Mr. Paganelli.

"(Dr. Shumaker) said, 'I went and stayed with a friend in another room. Therefore, when the hotel changed the bill out, they made a mistake,'" Mr. Paganelli said.

That story didn't come close to flying, the Free-Press reported:

Lawmakers on the committee laughed at that explanation.

"I could have done better than that," said Sen. Jerry Cooper, D-Morrison, the committee's chairman.

Mr. Paganelli said Dr. Shumaker "came back the next day and said he was not truthful with us about that."

"They shared the room. He stayed three nights, but after the second night they transferred the charges over to her, which she turned in to UAB," Mr. Paganelli said. "The hotel made a mistake when they were splitting the cost between the two of them. She got the conference rate, and he had a rate of $120 more than she did."

Associated Press reported that Shumaker tried to conceal his relationship with Garrison when asked about the hotel receipt from San Antonio:

Shumaker, who resigned Aug. 8 while under investigation for extravagant spending and ethical lapses, had previously described his relationship with Garrison as "very good personal friends" and "unassailable, perfectly proper and appropriate."

Auditors caught on to the lie when questioning a receipt they found in Garrison's name, Paganelli said. The first two nights of their stay was paid by UT, while the third was billed to UAB at a rate $120 less than the previous two.

Garrison released a statement to AP, but she did not take questions about her role in the Shumaker scandal:

In a statement Thursday, Garrison acknowledged a relationship with Shumaker and said UAB paid for her hotel room because she was there on official business that had been approved by the chancellor.

"My relationship with John Shumaker at the University of Louisville was professional. Our relationship now is personal, and has been no secret, as he has attended a number of Birmingham and UAB events," Garrison said.

(To be continued)

Previously in the series:

Carol Garrison and John Shumaker, Part I

Carol Garrison and John Shumaker, Part II
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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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