Thursday, April 09, 2009

Felner's Lame Explanation

"I'm not innocent because
I've done all these stupid things.
I know it. And I'm in some trouble."
--Robert Felner

At C-J, Nancy Rodriguez has been reading the transcripts of former UofL Education Dean Robert Felner's interview with federal authorities. Her report shows a desperate Felner looking to explain away the inexplicable - how houses in his name were really an investment; that sort of thing. It's hard to imagine any jury buying what he's shovelling.
Felner said he used grants
to build up company
Ex-dean spoke to investigators

Former University of Louisville education dean Robert Felner
told federal investigators last summer that he and an Illinois colleague [Thomas Schroeder] used federal grant money to invest in properties around the country because they were trying to build up a nonprofit company that they had created for educational research, according to a 320-page transcript of the interview...

In the June 20 interview...Felner acknowledged that he deposited into the Louisville account $450,000 in checks paid from a U of L federal grant that was intended to create a different center at U of L to help schools boost achievement under the No Child Left Behind law.

He also said he deposited payments made to the Illinois center from school districts in New York and other states for contract work he said he did.

Federal officials said during the interview that Felner later moved that money into investment and personal accounts, or made cash withdrawals. According to investigators, Felner also used the money to purchase four properties -- two in Florida and one each in Oldham County and Rhode Island.

They say he also used money from the accounts to have landscaping done at the properties, pay property taxes and mortgage costs and fix a home spa.

The properties are all in Felner's name, but he told investigators during the interview that they were bought as investments for the Illinois-based center...

"The reason we invested in the houses, the reason we brokered the account were to just to try to build something up so we could actually have the money to do the kind of work that we wanted to do," Felner told investigators during the daylong interview, which took place June 20, 2008, at U of L's College of Education and Human Development.
But that isn't allowed under regulations governing federal grants, according to James Tracy, vice president of research at the University of Kentucky.

When it comes to federal grants, the general rule is: "You personally cannot gain or divert federal funding to benefit yourself," Tracy said.

"You can take a salary from a grant, but you have to say that and you have to account for that at the university," he said, adding that what Felner said he was doing "doesn't sound reasonable."
Asked why he didn't file conflict of interest forms as required by the university Felner claimed that oversight on that matter was pretty much absent.
Nobody around here, I mean, I'm sorry, but nobody around here submits their
conflict-of-interest forms," Felner said.
Provost Shirley Willihnganz admitted previously that faculty had not always filed such forms, but that the university has since improved its monitoring.

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