JANUARY 19, 2007
Administrators and teachers at one of the nation’s largest public junior college districts are under investigation for spending at least half a million taxpayer dollars on personal trips abroad and lavish hotel stays as well as enrollment fraud.
The Maricopa Community College District in Arizona serves about 270,000 students annually at 10 campuses and employs about 12,000 workers. Allegations of widespread fraud, theft and misuse of public money surfaced a few months ago and this week police raided various campuses as well as the district headquarters.
Administrators at one campus alone, Mesa Community College, spent more than $300,000 over five years on trips to Europe, China and other countries and they stayed at fancy hotels that cost $250 a night. Investigators are also focusing on enrollment fraud, procurement violations and misspending of athletic department fundraising money.
Officials seized the computer data of two college presidents whose offices were searched this week and the district headquarters in Tempe was also raided for bank accounts, personnel files, travel documents, class rosters procurement contracts and information on the performing arts program.
An auditor recently found that the district’s performing arts program had fraudulently enrolled its employees and relatives in classes and took thousands of dollars in scholarships to pay bills that should have gone to students. The program’s director was paid tens of thousands of dollars for work his salary already covered and work that he never did.
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