Griffin to stay at NDSU for nowThe director of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University accused of double dipping on his expenses will continue working for the university through Dec. 31.
By: By Amy Dalrymple, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The director of the Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute at North Dakota State University accused of double dipping on his expenses will continue working for the university through Dec. 31.
A separation agreement calls for Gene Griffin to resign but remain employed by the institute and collect salary and benefits for the remainder of the year.
He earns an annual salary of $164,943.
NDSU President Dean Bresciani said the Dec. 31 date was reached as a compromise because there are specific projects that would be difficult to complete without Griffin’s expertise.
“It would have some fairly substantial implications for ongoing research and the funding of that research,” Bresciani said.
In the agreement, Griffin must repay NDSU $6,169.40, the amount an internal audit shows he overcharged the university over the past three years.
NDSU internal auditor Eric Miller said Griffin submitted to NDSU requests for a per diem allowance when he was already being reimbursed for meals through an account with the NDSU Development Foundation.
Messages seeking comment from Griffin have not been returned. The separation agreement says Griffin disputes any wrongdoing.
The North Dakota Bureau of Investigation reviewed the case, said Bruce Bollinger, NDSU vice president for finance and administration.
The Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office is reviewing the reports, but has not made a decision about criminal charges.
Griffin, who has directed the institute since 1980, submitted his expenses to the NDSU Development Foundation until May, when a policy change had him submit expenses to the provost, Bollinger said.
In June, then-Provost Craig Schnell received two reimbursement requests from Griffin that appeared to be seeking payment twice for the same meal.
As a result, NDSU’s internal auditor examined Griffin’s expense reimbursements for the previous three years.
There were multiple cases when Griffin ate at a banquet or other event and received reimbursement for those meals from the foundation but also submitted to NDSU a per diem claim, Miller said.
In addition, there were cases when Griffin submitted requests for reimbursement when he was not eligible for a per diem, Miller said.
Officials do not know if the double dipping occurred other times during Griffin’s 31-year career as director.
“It was consistent through these three years,” Miller said.
NDSU examined three years because if criminal charges are pursued, that is the statute of limitations, Miller said.
In a meeting with his supervisors, Griffin said he believed it was acceptable for employees to submit a request for per diems regardless of whether the meals were consumed, according to an audit document summarizing the meeting.
“Mr. Griffin said this is how he has always filed his reimbursement expenses,” the document states.
A review of Griffin’s personnel file shows he’s received positive evaluations praising him for developing a nationally recognized program in transportation.
Miller will expand the scope of his audit to look at other individuals’ expenses to ensure compliance with policies.
The discovery of the situation came as a result of NDSU strengthening its internal controls, Bollinger said.
“The new president has a zero tolerance when it comes to these kinds of activities,” Bollinger said.
The Office of the State Auditor also reviewed NDSU’s internal audit of Griffin, said John Grettum, audit manager.
State auditors are not planning any additional reviews of NDSU expenses, but will have a heightened awareness of this issue during routine audits of the North Dakota University System, Grettum said.
Amy Dalrymple is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.