i9 Investigation: $60,000 Misused at U of I

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A new report from the state auditors office accuses a former University of Iowa employee of making nearly $60,000 worth of improper purchases on various procurement cards, also known as "pcards".

Former Administrative Specialist in the Department of Periodontics within the College of Dentistry, Amanda Shumaker allegedly used pcards assigned to her and the Department's Director to spend thousands of dollars at places like Amazon ($38,473.86), Barnes and Noble ($5,202.50), and other vendors ($9,220.90). Investigators found among the items purchased include bath bombs, aromatherapy items, manicure and pedicure sets, and camera equipment among many other items.

Shumaker was hired by the University in August of 2012, was placed on paid administrative leave in August of 2016, and passed away later that month.

A copy of the audit report was provided to the Johnson County Attorney's office. Johnson County attorney Janet Lyness told I9 in a statement concerning the situation:

"The State Auditor’s Office doesn’t make our job easy because you have to decipher what is “questionable” versus “criminal”. So it takes a while to get through it. But if the accused has passed away, nothing will be done from my office. My office doesn’t get involved in suing estates for uncharged criminal cases. The UI/State could look at doing that if they think it is worth it."

University of Iowa Media relations director Anne Bassett tells I9, "The University of Iowa considers this matter closed."

The reports notes the University was able to withhold $11,246.77 from Shumaker’s paychecks and vacation payout.

This is the second University of Iowa employee I9 is aware of that the auditor's office has found to have misused taxpayer funds. In a report public in December 2017, investigators found Physics Department professor Michael Flatté misused $99,805.67 between 2011 and 2017. His current employment status with the school is unclear, however, his university website profile and phone were both online as of Thursday afternoon.

An auditor's report in June accused Yana Cornish of misusing nearly $7,000 while she was the director of the University of Northern Iowa's Study Abroad Center from 2011 and 2014. Cornish currently holds a similar position at the University of Georgia. I9 reached out to both schools for an update on what they have done with the information since we first reported it but are still waiting to hear back.

Bassett says in the case of the University of Iowa they have taken steps to make pcard spending more secure. She sent I9 the following statement:

"Immediately following the discovery of the unauthorized purchases at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry, all department chairs received additional training in budget review and oversite.

The University of Iowa takes seriously its fiduciary responsibility to spend taxpayer and research dollars wisely and has several procedures in place to ensure this happens. Travel and procurement policies are outlined in the university’s Operations Manual and purchases are reviewed by highly trained staff.

The university recently began to centralize department transaction experts under University Shared Services to reduce administrative costs, minimize redundancies, increase compliance, and decrease errors. The new structure followed the Board of Regents efficiency review known as TIER."

I9 will update this story as more information becomes available.

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