An internal university audit of the Office of Student Activities concluded its director gave relatives no-bid contracts worth thousands of dollars and did not adhere to the university’s conflict of interest policy when working with a former Student Activities employee, revealing “the appearance of unethical business practices.”
The memo also shows the director, Marguerita “Rita” Calicat, held a personal event on Main Campus that was partially paid for by Temple and was months behind on both interdepartmental and personal event billing, giving rise “to the appearance of self-dealing,” according to the audit.
The internal memo, sent June 7 by the Director of Internal Audits, James Bausman, Jr., to the university’s chief financial officer, vice president and treasurer, Martin Dorph, as well as other high-level administrators, was obtained Wednesday by The Temple News.
The investigation was launched by Internal Audits in collaboration with Labor Relations, Human Resources, University Counsel and the Controller’s Office after Internal Audits received anonymous e-mails in March and April “alleging conflicts of interest and use of university resources for personal events within the Office of Student Activities.”
The audit targeted Calicat and Richard Ellerson, a Temple graduate who has worked as a student for the Office of Student Activities from 1997 to 2000. Ellerson was later hired as assistant director of facilities and operations in July 2004.
In the five years before Ellerson was promoted to the assistant director position, the audit shows Ellerson’s father, Richard K. Wayns, was paid $46,500 by Student Activities as an independent contractor with the technical support company Emergency Room Entertainment & Productions. Dorion Wayns, Ellerson’s cousin, was paid $11,000 through the same company for disc jockey work at campus events, including last year’s homecoming party.
During the same period, the audit shows Kevin E. Wayns, Ellerson’s uncle and the father of Calicat’s son, was paid $192,500 as a contracting sound engineer through the Montgomery County-based company Kevin E. Sound Engineering & Production.
From July 1, 2004, to May 6, 2005, Richard, Dorion and Kevin Wayns also were paid $29,000, $12,500 and $35,600, respectively, for their work. Internal audits concluded that from spring 2004 to the investigation’s end, Student Activities spent 43 percent of their budget for disc jockeys on the Wayns family.
After comparing accounts payable transactions for the three vendors to those of other contractors, the auditors found the “transactions were appropriately documented,” followed university guidelines for payment and included proper signature authorization. University Counsel also concluded that charges paid to Emergency Room “were within acceptable ranges and comparable to the charges paid to other vendors.”
But Student Activities contracts for “vendors, including vendors for technical support, sound engineering, certain disc jockeys and lighting services for any events” were not put up for bid by Ellerson and Calicat. The university requires contracts be put up for a formal bid to increase competition among vendors and to receive the best price for work.
Transactions with the Wayns family were given in “the absence of formal, documented competitive bidding” which “may have given the appearance of unethical business practices,” according to the audit.
The report concludes that Calicat and Ellerson violated Temple’s conflict of interest policy because they awarded the contracts to the Wayns family before receiving written approval by top administrators, as required by the policy guidelines.
Though the audit says Calicat told the associate vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Ainsley Carry, “that she was unaware this might be a conflict of interest,” the document also points out that Calicat approved Ellerson’s transactions to the Wayns family, including his father, and “was aware of this relationship.”
University Counsel concluded Calicat did not violate the university’s conflict of interest policy with Kevin Wayns, the father of Calicat’s son, because they “are not married, do not share a household, and are not otherwise involved in a romantic relationship.”
Calicat last week declined an e-mail request for comment and did not return numerous telephone messages.
Ellerson, who resigned this summer, initially testified to Internal Audits that he did not prepare or submit invoices to his father’s company. After auditors asked Computer Services to copy the hard drive of Ellerson’s university computer – which revealed six invoices to Emergency Room – Ellerson changed his story, saying “he prepared a few invoices for his father but did not submit those invoices for signature authorization.”
Once Internal Audits showed Ellerson 36 of his own e-mails – including 89 attached invoices for Emergency Room’s work – that were sent to Calicat, Ellerson admitted “he prepared and submitted invoices for his father, and did so as a matter of practice.”
Ellerson and Kevin Wayns did not return calls seeking comment.
The audit also shows that Calicat hosted a personal baby shower on Feb. 19 in the Owl Cove, employing two students paid by Temple to work the event. When Calicat was approached by auditors in April she still had not processed billing for the event, though “she immediately produced a Student Activities Event Estimate Billing Sheet that was on her desk detailing the baby shower,” according to the report.
Calicat told examiners Student Activities was behind on its billing and the auditors concluded that Calicat intended “to reimburse the university for the amounts paid to the student workers.”
The report’s conclusion about the baby shower reports that Calicat bypassed the Community Relations office to schedule the event. The university requires that all groups not affiliated with Temple, or individuals wanting to hold private events, reserve space through the office.
Although circumventing the office “is reportedly a common practice,” according to the memo, Calicat “may have avoided incurring additional charges and exposed the university to potential liability” because Community Relations is the office that ensures facilities and security are appropriate and “proper insurance coverage is in effect.”
A cost estimate of the baby shower was not reported in the memo.
The audit recommends that all subsequent personal events be processed through Community Relations and suggests Human Resources review Calicat’s “failure to promptly reimburse the university and to keep student event billing up to date.” The memo also advises Human Resources to decide “what, if any, personnel action should be taken” because of Calicat’s failure to comply with the university’s conflict of interest policy.
Because Martin Dorph was said to be on vacation Friday, he could not be reached for comment. Messages left Friday for Deirdre Walton, manager of Human Resources’ employee relations department, were not returned.
In a telephone interview Friday, Carry declined to comment about any personnel action against Calicat.
Carry said it is common for departments or university groups to bypass Community Relations for expediency when holding campus events. As far as employees using university space for private functions, Carry said “university policy is not clear on that right now; there is no policy established for that.”
When asked if Carry was satisfied with the work of Ellerson when he was a Student Activities employee, Carry said: “He was an excellent employee. He worked very hard, stayed late and got here early. I thought he was a quality employee and I am saddened that we lost him.”
When asked about Calicat’s work, Carry said nearly the same.
“She’s been a hard working employee who gets here early, stays late and does whatever needs to be done to get programs and services done for students,” he said.
Brandon Lausch can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.