University audit draws union ire

Following an internal audit of the Office of Student Activities that revealed its director and a former employee did not adhere to the university’s conflict of interest policy when giving relatives no-bid contracts totaling more than $300,000, outraged university union leaders say the findings are “a disgrace to Temple” while a District Council president calls responses to the investigation by state and university officials “unsatisfactory.”

“This is all disturbing, shocking and needs to be looked at,” said the president of Temple’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, Gary Kapanowski, of the audit. “To be allowed to breach policies and to see top management play favorites by hiring relatives, the word ‘sickens’ comes to mind.”

Mark Eyerly, Temple’s chief information officer, said in a statement Friday that “the university has reviewed the audit’s findings and has taken appropriate actions based upon that review.” He said the university could not comment further on the investigation.

The internal document, sent June 7 by the Director of Internal Audits, James Bausman, Jr., to nearly a dozen other high-level administrators, concluded the director of Student Activities, Rita Calicat, gave no-bid contracts for DJ services to the relatives of Richard Ellerson, including $228,100 to Ellerson’s uncle, Kevin E. Wayns, who is also the father of Calicat’s son.

Ellerson worked with Calicat from 1997 to 2000 as a student before he was promoted to the position of assistant director of facilities and operations in July 2004. Ellerson resigned this summer.

The audit found that over the course of approximately six years Wayns was paid as a contracting sound engineer through the company Kevin E. Sound Engineering & Production, while Ellerson’s father, Richard K. Wayns, and Ellerson’s cousin, Dorion Wayns, were paid a total of $75,500 and $23,500, respectively, through Emergency Room Entertainment & Productions.

Though the investigation found accounts payable transactions to the family members were “appropriately documented” and “were within acceptable ranges and comparable to the charges paid to other vendors,” the contracts were not put up for competitive bid by Calicat and Ellerson.

Because Calicat and Ellerson did not fully disclose the possible conflict to university officials or University Counsel, the audit concluded contracting to the family members gave “the appearance of unethical business practices” and violated the university’s conflict of interest policy.

Calicat did not violate the conflict of interest policy with Kevin Wayns, the audit found, because they “are not married, do not share a household, and are not otherwise involved in a romantic relationship.”

Kapanowski, who has led Temple’s Local 1723 union for 29 years, said the audit’s findings are “the most shocking thing I’ve seen” during his tenure and said the extent of the corruption detailed in the investigation “makes a mockery of every honest, hardworking person here.”

“To think this has been going on at Temple for years,” Kapanowski said. “And [employees are forced] into choosing to either join in on the corruption or face pressure under threats of all kinds in the department.”

Kapanowski said the union first alerted Human Resources about possible unethical hiring practices in November 2004 after receiving complaints from Student Activities employees, but said little administrative action was taken until months later.

The audit, obtained by The Temple News last month, states the investigation was launched by Labor Relations, Human Resources, University Counsel and the Controller’s Office in March and April after Internal Audits “received anonymous e-mails alleging conflicts of interest and use of university resources for personal events within the Office of Student Activities” and similar allegations by former Student Activities employees that focused on Calicat and Ellerson.

Along with explaining how no-bid contracts were given to the relatives of Calicat and Ellerson, the audit found Calicat hosted a baby shower at the Owl Cove on Feb. 19, employing two students to work the event.

Kapanowski said the drive to question operations in Student Activities was mainly because of complaints by Student Activities workers in Temple’s union, including John Hodges, former night operations manager of the Student Center.

Hodges was fired March 1 for violating university policy against “mistreatment, negligence and neglect or abuse of clients” after e-mail complaints sent to Student Activities claimed Hodges used anti-Semitic and anti-Christian comments when talking to student workers at the Student Center information desk.

While Hodges admits using the language, he and Kapanowski say Hodges’ words were taken out of context to force his firing and claim the underlying reason for Hodges’ dismissal was because he raised questions about possible conflicts of interest in Student Activities to Ellerson and Calicat, as well as to the union.

“The key is accountability,” said Hodges, who still works at Temple as an adjunct computer information sciences professor, in a recent interview. “Supposing my termination resulted from me saying racist comments that weren’t truly investigated. These people are embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars and are staying in their positions. And I’m kicked out the door.”

Calicat told The Temple News last semester Hodges “was dismissed for legitimate reasons” and “was not wrongfully dismissed at all.” She has declined requests for comment about the audit, which was first reported last month.

Kapanowski said the union wouldn’t have otherwise pursued an investigation “if they wouldn’t have wrongly fired a whistleblower.” Kapanowski and Hodges will argue their claims tomorrow before the American Arbitration Association, a labor-management dispute resolution service, to see if Hodges can be cleared of the violation.

Once the internal audit concluded in June and the union heard no administrative response over the summer, Kapanowski said he approached Thomas Paine Cronin, head of District Council 47, to set up a meeting between concerned university employees and state Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) to discuss the investigation and try to compel Evans to elicit a response from the university. District Council 47 oversees nine local unions, including Temple’s and two at the University of Pennsylvania.

Cronin said he agreed to the request considering Evans not only represents the section of Philadelphia where Temple sits, but also because he is the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

“We met with Dwight in his Philadelphia office a few weeks ago now and information was presented to him about the problem,” Cronin said in an interview last week. “The bottom line is he indicated he would make some calls and try to find out about what was going on.”

Cronin said Evans pledged he would contact university administrators about the audit, including President David Adamany, and report back his findings.

“[Evans] called me back about a week ago and said he spoke with President Adamany and Adamany indicated to him that they were looking into it and anybody who wanted to talk to him, that he has an open door, something to that effect,” Cronin said, adding that Evans did not give any additional information. “I told the state representative that I would tell the folks at Temple what his response was, that I would get back to them, and they are not satisfied. … I have a call in to Rep. Evans relaying that message.”

Evans could not be reached for comment last week.

Cronin said although he appreciates Evans’ call to the university, he is unsatisfied with the representative’s response, as well as Temple’s, because answers to union inquires have been vague.

“I think that unless there’s something I’m not hearing it’s all unsatisfactory,” Cronin said. “I wasn’t privy in the conversation between the representative and President Adamany, but if what I got is what he got, that [Adamany] has an open door, no I’m not satisfied. I’m wondering what Temple is hiding or what they’re worried about or what they’re afraid of. And if they’re not worried about anything, why are they going through all these hoops and why won’t they answer the questions?”

Kapanowski, “speaking for the thousands of Temple employees who follow the law,” said the union’s goal is to see the total amount of allegedly misappropriated money paid back to the university budget in full.

“That’s how they see the [Student Activities] budget, as their personal bank account,” Kapanowski said of those named in the audit. “We have to have policies that apply to everybody equally and we’ll keep knocking on doors until this is rectified.”


Who’s Involved

An internal university audit that concluded in June found the director of the Office of Student Activities and a former employee did not adhere to the university’s conflict of interest policy when giving no-bid contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to family members. Here is a rundown of who was named in the audit and who has responded to the investigation.

Included in the audit:
Rita Calicat has been at Temple since March of 1990. An internal audit found Calicat signed off on no-bid contracts given to relatives for DJ and sound engineering work. The contracts – totaling more than $300,000 over approximately six years – were given to the relatives of Richard Ellerson, (see below) including Ellerson’s uncle, Kevin E. Wayns, (see below) who is the father of Calicat’s son.
The audit concluded Calicat violated the university’s conflict of interest policy because she did not fully disclose her relationships with the vendors to university officials. The audit also found Calicat was months behind on event billing, including a personal baby shower she hosted in February at the Owl Cove.
Calicat has declined comment about the investigation.

Richard Ellerson worked with Calicat from 1997 to 2000 as a student before he was promoted to the position of assistant director of facilities and operations in July 2004. In the assistant director position Ellerson was responsible for making sure technical requirements at events were met. Auditors found on Ellerson’s university computer 36 e-mails with 89 attached invoices sent to Calicat for work provided by Emergency Room Entertainment & Productions, a company Ellerson’s father and cousin work for.
Internal Audits found Ellerson violated the university’s conflict of interest policy and concluded his statements to auditors were not credible because he initially denied preparing and submitting invoices for his father’s company. Ellerson resigned this summer. He has not return calls seeking comment.

Richard K. Wayns is Ellerson’s father. The audit found he was paid by Student Activities a total of $75,500 over six years through the contracting company Emergency Room Entertainment & Productions. The audit concluded payment to Emergency Room from spring 2004 to the audit’s end accounted for 43 percent of the Student Activities budget for DJ services. The audit found charges paid to the company were within acceptable ranges when compared to other vendors.

Kevin E. Wayns is Ellerson’s uncle and the father of Calicat’s son. The audit found Wayns was given a total of $228,100 over six years for sound engineering work by the Office of Student Activities. The audit found charges paid to Wayns were within acceptable ranges when compared to other jobs and concluded that Calicat and Wayns did not violate the university’s conflict of interest policy because they “are not married, do not share a household, and are not otherwise involved in a romantic relationship.”
Wayns did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Dorion Wayns is Ellerson’s cousin. He also worked with Emergency Room Entertainment & Productions as a disc jockey and was paid a total of $23,500 over six years by the Office of Student Activities.

Responding to the investigation:

Gary Kapanowski has been president of Temple’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union for 29 years. Kapanowski says the union played a pivotal role in alerting university administration about possible corruption and unethical hiring practices in the Office of Student Activities, but contends the administration was slow moving in launching its investigation. He says university officials have been unresponsive when asked what, if any, personnel action has been taken against Calicat.

John Hodges was the former night operations manager of the Student Center who was fired on March 1 for violating university policy when he said anti-Semitic and anti-Christian comments to student workers. Hodges admits to using the language but said his words were taken out of context to force his firing after he raised questions about possible unethical hiring practices in the Office of Student Activities to Calicat, Ellerson and Temple’s union. The union will represent Hodges tomorrow before the American Arbitration Association, a labor-management dispute resolution service, to see if Hodges can be cleared of the violation. Calicat told The Temple News last semester that Hodges “was dismissed for legitimate reasons” and “was not wrongfully dismissed at all.” Hodges currently works at Temple as an adjunct computer information sciences professor.

Thomas Paine Cronin has been the president of District Council 47 since 1980. DC 47 oversees nine local unions, including Temple’s. Cronin said he was approached by Temple union leaders to set up a meeting between some university employees and state Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) to discuss the investigation and try to compel Evans to elicit a response from the university.
Cronin said the meeting occurred a few weeks ago, with Evans pledging he would call university administrators for comment. Cronin said Evans recently reported that he had called President Adamany, who said the university was looking into the audit’s findings. Cronin called the response from Evans and the university “unsatisfactory” because answers to inquiries have been vague.

State Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Phila.) did not return calls last week to his Philadelphia and Harrisburg offices seeking comment. Cronin and Temple union leaders say they contacted Evans to investigate the audit’s findings because he represents the area where Temple sits and is the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

President David Adamany was said to have been contacted within the last month by state Rep. Dwight Evans about the audit. When asked if President Adamany reviewed the audit upon request by Evans, Mark Eyerly, Temple’s chief information officer, said in a statement that “the university has reviewed the audit’s findings and has taken appropriate actions based upon that review.” He said the university could not comment further on the investigation.


Brandon Lausch can be reached at blausch@temple.edu.

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