Local News

Audit: College misspent money on aviation class, office decor

Posted September 23, 2008 11:45 a.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2008 6:19 p.m. EDT

— 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.