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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

The Brown reports, unearthed

One report notes oversight problems that could open the door to fraud. The other takes FAMU to task for "cost overruns" and "inefficient management" with the implementation of the university's new financial software system.

We know: Pointing out yet again that FAMU has fiscal problems is not only beating a dead horse, it's killing it, butchering it and forcing millions of Gradebook readers (well, thousands) to eat it. But the "latest" reports - obtained by The Gradebook this week through a public records request - are worth noting, at the least, because they're 23 and 18 months old, respectively, and until now they haven't seen the light of day. Former FAMU Inspector General Michael Brown compiled them in 2005 and was later fired by Interim President Castell Bryant. Now he's suing.

The first report, dated June 30, 2005, reviews FAMU finances between July 1, 2004 and April 30, 2005. If you're you're keeping up with FAMU's financial problems in detail, there are some interesting nuggets to consider, including duplicate checks, voided checks reissued with the same check number and checks issued by FAMU to itself. It's not clear from the report how many we're talking about.

The second report, dated November 11, 2005, may be the hotter of the two: Brown raps FAMU officials for how they transitioned to a new financial system (which is still giving FAMU headaches), charging they exceeded their budget and used money from other areas to cover shortfalls without approval from trustees. All in all, the report say, FAMU spent more than $27 million by June 2005 to put the new system into place, with nearly $14 million of that going to consultants. The report makes clear that FAMU officials disputed many of Brown's findings - and that Brown didn't budge.

The Brown saga is a potentially rich subplot in the FAMU story. Bryant put Brown on paid leave in June 2006 after be began investigating allegations that top FAMU officials were lying about the university's financial situation. The move prompted an outcry, but a review of the case by an outside auditor found no basis for Brown's charges. The issue surfaced again in the latest state audit, which took FAMU to task for not publishing Brown's reports and took issue with Bryant's claims that she never requested the first one.

- Ron Matus, state education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:17am]


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