Former University of Louisville education dean Robert Felner will plead guilty Friday in a case in which he and a colleague are accused of defrauding U of L and another university out of $2.3 million, his attorney said.
Attorney Scott C. Cox said Monday the plea is part of an agreement Felner made with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He would not disclose any terms of the deal, including which charges Felner would plead guilty to or how much jail time he may receive. Felner was not available for comment.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday that it would have no comment until Felner formally enters his plea — he is accused of funneling millions of dollars through non-profit centers he helped create, then using the money to buy private property and make other personal expenditures.
A trial for Felner and his co-defendant, Thomas Schroeder of Port Byron, Ill., was scheduled to begin Feb. 1. Schroeder could still be tried in February...Felner’s charges carry up to 75 years in prison, while Schroeder faces up to 45 years.
U of L officials released a statement Monday in which they expressed “hope that Mr. Felner will be held accountable for his actions.”
This is an improvement - since Felner was never held accountable by President James Ramsey for anything, despite substantial reason to do so. Ramsey's own dismissive attitude toward the 33 faculty complaints as "anonymous crap" might not have uncovered the depths of Felner's wrongdoings, but it surely would have served to save the university from substantial embarrassment - if only Ramsey had trusted his faculty. As it was, Ramsey's low opinion of the faculty left him completely blindsided by the most serious Felner revelations.
In that time-honored tradition of declaring an end to ones own misery as soon as possible, the university issued a "move on" statement declaring,
“Our College of Education and Human Development moved past Mr. Felner some time ago with the hiring of Blake Haselton as its interim dean,” the statement read. “Enrollment is up, there were a record number of graduates last school year, and we've attained a significant accreditation. Those are the chapters being written since Mr. Felner left U of L.”
The statement did not specify whether UofL grads are now required to actually attend the university or do their own work.
While not part of the criminal case, Felner's treatment of faculty and staff at U of L’s College of Education and Human Development — and grievances against him — came to light during the investigation. Former faculty accused Felner of being vindictive, manipulative and threatening. As a result of those claims, the university revamped its grievance process, reviewed its faculty governance procedures and established an Ombuds Office to address faculty concerns and complaints.
Bryant Stamford, a former faculty member who worked at U of L for more than 30 years and who has joined other former education faculty in criticizing the university for its handling of Felner, said Monday he had “mixed feelings” about news of a plea agreement.
“… It was good that he was finally caught and held accountable for his actions, but I think all of us still sort of default back to: How is it possible that this man was allowed to operate in such a manner for years? He wasn’t operating in a vacuum.”