Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Investigation clears USF College of Business in complaint over $2.2 million endowment

TAMPA — The University of South Florida did not misuse nearly $2.2 million it received a decade ago for an endowed professorship in business ethics that today does not exist.

That's the conclusion of the University Audit and Compliance Office, which investigates claims of fiscal misconduct.

"There appears to have been a good-faith effort to use the money according to the original intent," investigators say in a 23-page report to USF president Judy Genshaft.

At issue is a USF endowment created with $1.25 million from the Exide Corp., plus $937,500 in state matching funds.

In 1999, Exide paid the money to settle a state investigation into allegations that it sold defective car batteries. At the time, the Florida Attorney General's Office said the money would go to USF "to establish an eminent scholar chair in business ethics."

The following year, however, USF administrators scaled down the plan.

Assuming a 5 percent rate of return, a $2 million endowment would generate about $100,000 a year — less than half the salary that USF administrators say a top business scholar could command.

So instead of hiring one professor with the endowment, the College of Business has used endowment earnings to pay annual $10,000 stipends to several faculty members who specialize in sustainability, an area that has come to encompass business ethics. They developed and teach much of a multicourse MBA program focused on sustainability, the study of environmentally sound and socially responsible business practices.

The college also has used some of the money to stage business case-study competitions for students, to pay students scholarships, to stage two symposiums on sustainability and to buy some instructional books and videos.

In all, USF so far has spent $409,325 in dividends from the Exide fund. Because of recent investment losses, the endowment's balance is $1.8 million.

"We're doing great things for our students and trying to make them better corporate citizens when they enter the work force," College of Business dean Robert Forsythe said Monday. It is appropriate to use the Exide money for those activities, he said.

Business professor Marvin Karlins and associate business professor Robert Welker disagree.

"The money was specifically designated to get us a position, a full position, as an endowed professorship," Karlins said. "There was plenty of money to do it. For 10 years, they sat on it."

In July, he and Welker filed a complaint saying USF's actions were possibly inappropriate and a breach of contract.

But University Audit and Compliance found that Exide never signed a contract with USF for the use of the money, so there was no way a contract could be breached. The same goes for the state matching funds.

To the contrary, investigators found that USF told state officials about their plans for the money, and "a good-faith effort to use the funds appropriately occurred."

Karlins called the investigation a whitewash. He said he and Welker would take their complaint to the attorney general, although it is not clear how far they would get with that.

In July, a spokeswoman for the attorney general said the agency did want USF to create an endowed chair, but the office lacked the authority to force the university to use the money for a specific purpose because USF was not a party to the state's settlement with Exide.

Still, Karlins said, "We want somebody who's not being paid by the university and who is not reporting to the university president to look at this."

Investigation clears USF College of Business in complaint over $2.2 million endowment 10/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 19, 2009 10:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. How should St. Pete make up for dumping all that sewage? How about a street sweeper?


    Every crisis has a silver lining.

    In the case of St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis, which spawned state and federal investigations and delivered a state consent decree ordering the city to fix a dilapidated sewer system, the upside is figuring out how to satisfy the $810,000 civil penalty levied by the Florida …

  2. A boy and a girl stare at the camera from their house after Hurrciane Maria hit the eastern region of the island, in Humacao, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, September 20, 2017. The strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in more than 80 years destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island and turned some streets into raging rivers in an onslaught that could plunge the U.S. territory deeper into financial crisis. [Associated Prss]
  3. Tampa poll rates streets, flooding, police-community relations and transportation as top public priorities


    A city of Tampa online survey of the public's priorities for the next 18 months rated improving streets and easing flooding as the top priority of nearly 89 percent of respondents.

    Survey results
  4. Video shows women violently beating another in apparent Pasco road rage incident


    NEW PORT RICHEY — Two women are accused of dragging another woman out of her car window and beating her unconscious at a Pasco County intersection in an apparent road rage incident, according to the Sheriff's Office.

    Shelley Lyn Gemberling, 49, and Alicia Nikole Scarduzio, 20, are accused of pulling another driver out of her car and beating her in a Pasco County intersection. (Pasco Sheriff's Office)
  5. Top 5 at noon: Out of sight, out of mind: a Times investigation; PolitiFact: what's at stake in the tax debate? and more


    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    Aaron Richardson Jr. talks to voices in his head at his father's bail bond business in St. Petersburg. Richardson has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. [JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |   TIMES]