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Thursday, December 21, 2006

A&T leader faces embezzlement charges

A high-ranking university official faces criminal charges after an internal N.C. A&T audit found someone created a slush fund to funnel rebates on school equipment purchases, records show.

Rodney Emile Harrigan, 61, vice chancellor for information technology and telecommunications, turned himself in to campus police, according to a statement faxed Monday to the News & Record.

Arrest warrants show he was charged with obtaining property by false pretense and embezzlement of state property.

Records made no mention of how the money was spent.

Harrigan, of 5300 Bancroft Road in Greensboro, was released from the Guilford County jail after posting a $25,000 bond.

"If you would like to print anything," he said in response to questions about the charges, "please just say that I am innocent, and I cannot make any further comments at this time."

Harrigan was also suspended with pay from the university, where he earned $135,636 per year, according to the school.

The money in question, rebates through a service that supplies computers and software to the school, was placed in an unauthorized personal account with the N.C. A&T State Foundation, warrants show.

Authorities allege Harrigan diverted more than $70,000 to the account starting in 2004. A university spokeswoman said Monday she did not know if Harrigan is the only school official suspected of involvement in the activity.

The spokeswoman, Mable Scott, said the internal audit began when officials received a tip through a phone hot line that gives employees a confidential way to report fraud and abuse.

A team of three investigators from the UNC system has been asked by A&T to assist internal auditors, Scott said.

University records indicate the school knew as early as November of irregularities with discretionary accounts opened by Harrigan’s office. The accounts were frozen Nov. 6, according to a memo to Harrigan from interim Chancellor Lloyd Hackley.

Hackley, through an office receptionist who answered the phone Monday, directed the News & Record to speak with Scott.

Harrigan is the second university official in recent weeks to be under public scrutiny.

The A&T police chief, Curtis Bigelow, resigned Wednesday after a state commission found that he erred in not disclosing a misdemeanor charge when he applied for certification with the university’s police in 1992.

The same commission also concluded that Bigelow erred in not reporting a misdemeanor hit-and-run charge from a 2001 traffic accident.


Markus said...

Very interesting situation. It seems as if this could have just been a lack of understanding of the general accounting practices of the university. It's not uncommon for accounts to be setup to receive rebates from vendors. It seems as if he had good intentions by placing the money in a foundation account. This case will probably be determined by what was purchased from this account. Hope it works out. said...

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