UO Payroll Abuses Uncovered

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

UO Payroll Abuses Uncovered


Byline: Josephine Woolington The Register-Guard

University of Oregon supervisors allowed 15 workers to claim and be paid for unearned overtime and extra work hours during a three-year period to evade the financial curbs of state-mandated unpaid furlough days and salary freezes, according to an audit performed by the secretary of state's office and released Thursday.

Employees at the UO's Institute of Neuroscience manipulated the department's payroll multiple times from April 2010 to March 2013 to receive pay raises, the state audit found. The employees were paid using federal grants.

Separately, an internal review carried out by a consultant for the university earlier this year found an additional 10 employees received overtime pay for hours they didn't work as a way to still receive pay increases despite contractually imposed cost curbs. The university's classified staff was required via collective bargaining to take salary freezes and unpaid furlough days during the 2009-11 and 2011-13 biennia due to state budget curbs.

The UO returned $330,000 to the National Institutes of Health and $400 to the National Science Foundation for the misused money uncovered in the internal review, UO spokeswoman Julie Brown said.

The university could not immediately say how much it will have to repay as a result of payroll abuse found by the secretary of state's audit.

It is not clear whether the UO employees who received the extra unearned pay will be disciplined or face other consequences.

UO officials asked state auditors earlier this year to review possible payroll abuse at the Institute of Neuroscience, where students and professors research topics in biology, psychology and human physiology, after the internal review found problems. The internal review also found that employees from the Institute for Molecular Biology received overtime pay for hours they didn't actually work.

The university could not immediately provide a copy of the internal review, conducted by accounting firm StoneTurn Group, which has offices across the United States and in London.

The university replaced former Institute of Neuroscience Business Manager Ellen McCumsey earlier this year. McCumsey is no longer a university employee, said Kimberly Espy, UO's vice president for research and innovation. Espy would not confirm whether McCumsey left voluntarily or was fired, and McCumsey did not immediately respond to a phone message Thursday soliciting comment.

The institute's co-directors during the past three years, Christopher Doe and Shawn Lockery, no longer manage the institute, and currently serve as faculty members in the biology department as of July. Doe and Lockery were faculty members in the department before they became co-directors of the institute.

Espy declined to say whether Doe's and Lockery's transitions were related to the payroll abuse.

Doe on Thursday said that his and Lockery's three-year terms of serving as co-directors expired in July. Most of the institutes' co-directors don't serve longer than three years, and that is why the two stepped down, he said.

Doe said the change in directors is in no way related to the audit's findings.

The institute's faculty unanimously voted for psychology professor Edward Awh to serve as the new director, Doe said, but Espy instead appointed Dana Johnston, a geology professor.

Johnston is the institute's interim faculty director. Robert Lawson is now the interim business manager.

Lockery, too, said he left his institute position because his term had ended and he wished to return to research and teaching. …

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