Report I960143 Summary - April 1998
Conflicts of Interest, Acceptance of Prohibited Gifts, Improper Establishment of a Program, and Improper Deposit and Use of Funds at California State University, Dominquez Hills
Results in Brief
We received an allegation under the Reporting of Improper Governmental Activities Act (act) that two officials, official A and official B, husband and wife, at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), violated state conflict-of-interest laws. According to the complaint, official A also imprudently signed an agreement to establish a degree program in Israel. In addition, he improperly deposited funds from self-supporting programs into a nonstate account under his control. Further, he improperly authorized expenditures from nonstate accounts under his control to pay for food and entertainment for himself, staff, and faculty.
We investigated and substantiated these allegations. Specifically, based on the evidence we reviewed, we concluded the following:
- Because of their assigned positions and responsibilities at CSUDH, officials A and B had apparent conflicts of interest when they signed contracts that benefited official B.
- Evidence also suggests that official A had a conflict of interest when he approved the use of state funds under his control to hire employees to work for official B.
- Official B improperly accepted gifts totaling $3,979 from organizations and subsequently participated in making contracts with those organizations. Moreover, she failed to disclose these gifts.
- Official A imprudently signed a contract on behalf of CSUDH without obtaining the proper approvals and despite provisions in the contract that were in violation of state law.
- Official A improperly deposited $186,000 into a nonstate account even though state law required that these funds be deposited in a state account.
- Official A improperly allowed more than $18,000 to be used for food, entertainment, and other questionable expenses.
Official A resigned his administrative position effective March 31, 1998, and official B resigned her administrative position effective April 1, 1998. Because the CSUDH president assigned officials A and B to their respective areas of responsibility and because he was aware of some of their activities regarding the contracts, we submitted our report to the chancellor of California State University (CSU). CSU believes that the improper activities we reported resulted from poor judgment and questionable business practices at the Dominguez Hills campus. Although CSU believes the activities created an appearance of impropriety, CSU does not believe the two officials violated the law. Nevertheless, CSU has taken action to strengthen controls over salary payments, expense reimbursements, and the deposit of state funds.