I've said it before
, but it bears repeating: the East Bay just seems so quaint.
The most recent example: The case of recently resigned Vice Chancellor George Strait
Mr. Strait resigned, it turns out, because an audit showed that he "engaged in a pattern of intentional deception to defraud the University." Basically, he was getting reimbursed for personal expenses by the university by claiming them as work-related.
Sounds bad right? What did he do? Gamble away thousands of dollars and claim the losses as travel expenses? Claim a weekend vacation to the Bahamas as a work trip? Use the university account to rent out a condo for his stripper mistress?
Actually, he made 28 separate claims totalling a wopping $1969.72.
No, that is not a typo. So, not including the $265 that he stole from the university and DONATED TO HIS CHURCH
, Strait averaged $63.14 per fraud. When confronted, he paid back the $1969.72 (will they go after him for the interest?) and resigned.
Don't get me wrong. The man lied and stole money from the university. Looking at the audit, many of his transgressions weren't borderline cases, they were brazen fraud. For example, he claimed different dates on his reimbursement forms than the dates that expenses actually occurred to make it look like they happened on weekdays. He claimed a night in a hotel room (perhaps for a night with that stripper mistress of his) as a business dinner. And so on.
The problem I'm having is why he couldn't do a little more? I mean, Enron and Tyco, those are scandals worthy of my attention. Even options backdating results in the movement of several hundreds of millions of dollars from shareholders to executives.
But bilking under $2,000 from one of the largest public universities in the world, with revenues
in excess of $1.5 billion and over $3 billion in assets
, it seems a little lazy, no?
The man made $170,800 in salary, so he should be familiar with the lifestyle of a high-middle income earner -- e.g. where the nicer hotels are. He was staying in San Diego -- according to the documentation, at the Grand Hyatt San Diego -- and he apparently was only charged $67.67. Did he stay in the basement? Help wash dishes? What is the matter with this guy? And more to the point, why lie to get reimbursed for such a small claim when he's making 170k? How did he deem it worth the risk?
Item #21 is especially damning: $3.24 to visit CNN offices in order to advocate for more publicity for UC Berkeley professors and experts. Did he buy a gumball on the way in? Or are expenses in Atlanta that much lower than the rest of the country? One can't help but wonder what he was able to buy with $3.24. And why his salary didn't allow him to pay for it himself.
There was, unfortunately, no Vita-Mix Blender on the expense sheets he submitted.
In the end, Strait didn't deserve to be Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs. Not only because of his questionable sense of ethics, but because of his complete lack of imagination and ambition, and his inability to calculate simple risk-reward ratios.
Next time you defraud a public university, at least make it worth your while.