Local News

Audit: NCCU Official Took Federal Research Money

Posted February 12, 2008 11:26 a.m. EST
Updated February 12, 2008 6:51 p.m. EST

— A North Carolina Central University administrator has been reassigned after a state audit revealed he had skimmed about $15,000 from federal research grants to pay his credit card bills.

Franklin Carver was stripped of his duties as assistant provost and associate vice chancellor of academic affairs but retained his faculity position at N.C. Central. The university said in a statement that Carver has a tenure and cannot be fired without a due process hearing.

Campus police and local and federal law enforcement authorities are reviewing Carver's actions to determine whether criminal charges should be filed, N.C. Central officials said in their response to the audit. The university also is seeking repayment of the skimmed funds.

The audit, released Tuesday, was prompted by a call to a tip-line at the State Auditor's Office last fall that claimed $2,000 checks were being given to students for work they didn't perform.

A three-month investigation showed Carver authorized nine checks, totaling $36,041, between April 2003 and March 2004 to people who shouldn't have received any money. The money was taken from grants to the university from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  as part of the Minority Biomedical Research Support and the Overcoming Racial Health Disparities program.

The checks were handed to an N.C. Central undergraduate who was romantically involved with Carver, as well as Carver's nephew, the nephew's girlfriend and "fewer than 10" other people not affiliated with the university, according to Frank Perry, lead investigator in the State Auditor's Office. Carver instructed the people to cash the checks, return him a portion of the money and keep the rest, the audit report states.

Seven of the checks, totaling $15,341, were cashed, according to the audit. Perry said the other two checks were caught by internal financial controls and denied.

"I think abuse of authority is the appropriate description (of the case)," Perry said. "I think that part of the reason (the scheme ended) was that some of his requests were denied. He was getting clear resistance to the rightness of this."

Investigators also reviewed Carver's university-issued credit card account and found various personal items charged to the card, in violation of university policy, according to the audit. Investigators found delinquency charges, a notice of account cancellation and a notice to assign the account to a collection agent, supporting the claim made in the initial tip that the kickbacks were being used to pay Carver's credit card bills, the audit report states.

"It seems he was attempting to pay off his credit card, which was issued by the university," Perry said.

The university also has changed its procedures for approving the disbursement of federal grant funds and plans internal audits of credit cards used by staff members to reduce the potential for fraud, officials said.

“North Carolina Central University has a solid reputation, and I hope that the actions of one individual do not taint the positive work they are doing," State Auditor Les Merritt said in a statement. "I have full confidence in Chancellor (Charlie) Nelms’ ability to put these issues in the past and lead N.C. Central forward.”