‘Egregious and disturbing.’ NC audit questions $600,000 put on university credit cards

Employees at Fayetteville State University’s communications office allegedly misused university-issued credit cards, racking up $692,239 in questioned purchases, according to an investigation by the North Carolina auditor’s office.

FSU’s former associate vice chancellor for the Office of Strategic Communication, former director of digital strategy and assistant vice chancellor for marketing and creative services were among the unnamed staff involved in the investigation.

Of the questioned spending, $165,570 was paid to businesses owned by employees who “had not disclosed a financial interest in the business, creating a potential conflict of interest,” according to the report. The purchases were made between January 2022 and August 2023.

“Upon learning of these egregious and disturbing allegations, the University, working in concert with the UNC System, acted quickly and decisively in improving processes,” Fayetteville State Chancellor Darrell Allison said in a letter to the auditor.

Fayetteville State, a historically Black university, is one of the oldest schools in North Carolina’s public university system.

How was the money spent?

Cards intended for travel expenses, which were assigned to the former associate vice chancellor and former director of digital strategy, were found to have instead paid consultants $71,792 for 26 purchases, among other improper spending.

The travel expenses also included a $1,009 bill to arrive early and fly first class to a conference in New York City, followed by a $287 rideshare to a spa during the first day of the conference. Two employees in the office of strategic communications named in the report are no longer employed at the university, according to FSU.

Meanwhile, purchasing cards assigned to all three officials were used to buy items from Amazon, gifts, travel, IT hardware or software and payment of invoices.

“FSU’s leadership has been forward-looking, collaborative, and solutions-oriented throughout this process,” State Auditor Jessica Holmes said. “We appreciate their assistance in helping us identify and work together to address these issues and strengthen their internal protocols.”

The findings from the investigative audit will be referred to the State Bureau of Investigation to determine if there is sufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges, according to the report.