Special Reports

Fayetteville State University Employees Allegedly Misused $692,239 on Unallowable Credit Card Purchases, State Auditor Reports


Fayetteville State University is currently embroiled in a financial controversy following revelations from the Office of the State Auditor.

An audit report released on Tuesday alleges that employees at the university's Office of Strategic Communications misused $692,239 in unallowable credit card purchases over a period from January 2022 to August 2023. The findings have prompted immediate action from university administrators and could potentially lead to criminal charges.

Fayetteville State University Employees Allegedly Misused $692,239 on Unallowable Credit Card Purchases, State Auditor Reports

(Photo : WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / LTreadwell)

Details of the Misused Funds

According to the audit, three employees within the Office of Strategic Communications were responsible for the bulk of the improper expenditures. These employees include Joy Cook, the former associate vice chancellor for strategic communications; Morgan Osley Pratt, the former director of digital strategy; and Tina Raines, the current assistant vice chancellor for marketing and creative services. The audit highlights that Cook and Pratt are no longer with the university, while Raines remains in her position.

The misused funds were spent on a variety of unallowable items and services. Payments included fees to individuals, consultants, and employees, as well as invoices and travel expenses. Notably, the audit details extravagant travel expenses such as first-class tickets and costly ride shares, including a $287 ride to and from a spa day in New York City prior to a conference. In addition to travel expenses, there were significant purchases from Amazon.com totaling $5,506. These expenditures are categorized as "unallowable" because they do not comply with university policies and were not justified as necessary for university operations.

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Conflict of Interest and Policy Violations

The audit also raises serious concerns about conflicts of interest within the Office of Strategic Communications. It was discovered that employees had paid $167,570 to businesses owned by former employees of the office. This practice poses a potential conflict of interest, particularly since these former employees did not disclose their financial interests to university officials. The lack of transparency and disclosure violates university policies and ethical standards, further complicating the misuse of funds.

Another policy violation highlighted in the audit involves $5,395 spent on lodging within 35 miles of the university. Fayetteville State University's travel policy clearly states that lodging expenses within such a short distance from the university are not permissible. These expenditures indicate a blatant disregard for university policies and raise questions about the oversight and approval processes for such expenses.

University Response and Next Steps

In response to the audit findings, Fayetteville State University officials have taken immediate steps to address the financial mismanagement. The university has implemented stricter financial controls and conducted campus-wide training sessions on purchasing and travel policies. These measures are aimed at preventing future occurrences of such egregious financial misconduct and ensuring that all employees are fully aware of and adhere to university policies.

The audit report also notes that the findings have been referred to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The SBI will determine if there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges against the employees involved. This referral underscores the seriousness of the allegations and the potential legal consequences for those found guilty of financial misconduct.

Fayetteville State University is committed to transparency and accountability in handling this matter. University officials have expressed their dedication to restoring trust and maintaining the integrity of the institution. The swift response and corrective actions taken by the administration demonstrate their resolve to address the issue comprehensively and prevent similar incidents in the future.

The alleged misuse of $692,239 in unallowable credit card purchases by employees at Fayetteville State University has sparked a thorough investigation and immediate corrective actions. The audit's findings of extravagant and inappropriate expenditures, combined with potential conflicts of interest, highlight the need for stringent financial oversight and adherence to policies. As the State Bureau of Investigation continues its inquiry, the university remains focused on implementing robust controls to safeguard against financial mismanagement and uphold the institution's integrity.

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