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Audit: College misspent money on aviation class, office decor

Posted September 23, 2008

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— Robeson Community College spent more than $300,000 on an aviation curriculum that few students have taken and $17,000 on furnishings for the college president's office, according to an audit released Tuesday.

College officials violated state policy by adding the aviation curriculum without approval of the North Carolina Community College System president, according to the audit. The courses are taught by the University of North Dakota Aerospace Foundation.

Twenty-eight students have enrolled in the aviation curriculum since it was added three years ago, but as of May, none of the students completed all eight courses, according to the audit. College officials have threatened to lay off admissions personnel if 15 new students aren't enrolled for the fall semester.

"Clearly, scarce education funds could have been put to better use in Robeson County,” State Auditor Les Merritt said in a statement.

George Regan, chairman of the Robeson Community College Board of Trustees, said in a letter responding to the audit that the state Department of Transportation encouraged the college to add the aviation curriculum to increase the available pool of trained workers for aerospace companies being recruited to the state. College officials didn't think they needed state approval to work with the North Dakota group because no formal contract was ever drawn up, Regan said.

The audit also found that the college spent $17,000 to redecorate the college president's office in 2004. A South Carolina decorating company was used without obtaining competitive quotes from firms that have contracts with North Carolina state government, according to the audit.

Auditors noted that the median household income in Robeson County at that time was $27,241.

Regan said the furniture in the college president's office was 30 years old and wasn't compatible with current technology. He said competing quotes were obtained and that the college trustees determined there were no violations of state purchasing policies.

“We did not redecorate the office. We refurnished the office because the furniture that was here when I arrived in January 2003 had been in use since the college opened,” President Charles Chrestman told WRAL News.

Chrestman said the new furnishings were necessary for him and his staff to perform their duties. He called the furniture mid-grade, noting it wasn't top of the line.

Auditors also said a college employee provided catering services to several college events and received a partial payment upfront, according to the audit. Outside vendors were paid for catering services only after an event.

Regan responded that the college no longer uses the catering service operated by the part-time college employee.


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  • whatusay Sep 23, 2008

    My question...What happened to the furniture that was in his office?

  • patrick85ed Sep 23, 2008

    "The audit also found that the college spent $17,000 to redecorate the college president's office in 2004."

    They should audit all the universities, I think there would be many more such suprises.

  • john283594 Sep 23, 2008

    please tell me how furniture interfaces with a PC, and ipod, or a MP3.

    I guess it didn't have the holes for all the cords? lol...

  • lilwil Sep 23, 2008

    That's why these colleges are always asking for tuition hikes...it's not for education, it's for decorating the offices and other perks for deans, professors' salaries, etc.

    What a shame!!!!!!!!! They should be made to pay every dime back.

  • superman Sep 23, 2008

    My dinning room table is 150 years old and still seems to fuction. The chairs are well over 100 years old. I guess they should be replaced with new furniture that is made of composite board and glue.

  • FromClayton Sep 23, 2008

    Shame on them! Wasteful!

  • Scubagirl Sep 23, 2008

    brings to mind the story of the elderly woman who was living in basically squalor but trips were taken by tribal leaders and she could get nothing for home upgrades to even a toilet.

  • teacher-mom Sep 23, 2008

    That is a shame. I hope they get students so they do not have to drop the program. That money certainly could have been spent more productively elsewhere.

  • Adelinthe Sep 23, 2008

    "please tell me how furniture interfaces with a PC, and ipod, or a MP3."

    Has to be designed so as to provide ergonomic computer keyboard interfaces; insurance companies are now STARTING to demand that.

    Re the college employee catering, was the price competitive with outside sources? If so, I have no problem with up front partial payments, even though it could be construed as conflict of interest. If it saved money, it should be ok, but often is not.

    God bless.

    Rev. RB

  • whatusay Sep 23, 2008

    This is the way Robeson County has always operated it's educational system, and it's government. They do as they please and no one is supposed to ask any questions. A few local politicians own everything and the others either work for them or they are on welfare. AND, YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A DEGREE IN AVIATION TO WORK FOR AN AVIATION COMPANY.