Succinct Re-Cap of the Robert Felner Story

This week’s LEO provides a nice re-cap and several new details in the long and ongoing story of craziness surrounding Robert Felner.

Writer Christopher Hall raises the question about history repeating itself and we’re pretty sure you’ll think that it does– or that university administrations are half-incompetent– after reading everything he lays out.

We learn that the federal investigation involves more than the $694,000 grant that we have repeatedly harped on, faculty came forward to be interviewed for the story but did so anonymously for fear of later reprisal, UofL’s administration potentially ignored reports of grant mismanagement as early as 2006 and no one from the university administration that hired Felner bothered to find out why he was canned at UIUC 20 years ago.

You should definitely read the Hall’s story in its entirely. But first, some choice excerpts.

The U.S. Attorney says the investigation is about more than the No Child Left Behind grant that the Courier-Journal perpetually reports on:

When asked if the investigation is focusing primarily on the alleged mishandling of $450,000, or if additional money is in question, Huber simply repeats his statement that “other threads of this issue” are being looked into as well.

Read the rest of the juicy details after the jump…

Read moreSuccinct Re-Cap of the Robert Felner Story

C-J Finally Gets It: Robert Felner Investigation Involves Way More Than $694,000 – His Schemes Went Way, Way Deeper

Holy crap. Nancy Rodriguez finally says that the Robert Felner investigation at the University of Louisville involves more than a $694,000 grant!

Can you believe it? Turns out the old boy asked for $120,000 in university endowment funds to pay for things other grants were supposed to cover.

According to the e-mails the newspaper obtained, Felner wanted $120,000 in endowed fund money to pay for surveys and data collection that was to be done by the National Center on Public Education and Prevention Inc. in Illinois.

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The fund had been set up to honor Offutt, a former U of L trustee president, and his wife, said Nancy Stablein, the Offutts’ daughter and a university supporter.

And he also tried to use $50,000 in leftover funds from a Jefferson County Public Schools contract.

Besides the endowed fund, Felner indicated in a June 3 e-mail to the university’s grants management office that he planned to use leftover funds from a 2005 contract he had with Jefferson County Public Schools to cover unspecified costs associated with the NCLB Center.

The school district had paid the university $50,000 for Felner to complete a study that looked at effective principal leadership.

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Six days after indicating that he planned to use the leftover funds to cover costs related to the NCLB Center, Felner sent another e-mail to the grant management office, indicating that leftover money should be used to pay the Illinois center for work it did on the JCPS principal report. He did not specify the amount.

Meanwhile, UofL president Jim Ramsey says all of those complaints against Robert Felner were “crap,” classes are starting at UofL and students feel uncertain about the future of the university, and money is probably being flushed down the toilet 24/7.

Felner Not Required to File Financial Disclosure

The University of Louisville never required Robert Felner to file financial disclosure forms that were required by UofL to reveal conflicts of interest. Five years and millions of dollars in grant money and NOTHING was filed. No one batted an eyelash.

Agencies that are subcontracted through grants are also required to comply with disclosure in order to avoid conflicts of interest before grant money is received. Of course, the National Center on Public Education and Social Policy at the University of Rhode Island– where Felner was paid– never filed paperwork. Neither did Tom Schroeder or the National Center for Public Education and Prevention in Illinois.

Since 2005, Felner has overseen a $694,000 federal education grant that is now being investigated. Much of the grant — $450,000 — went to a former colleague and friend, Thomas Schroeder, who was president of an education-research center in Illinois that he said he created at Felner’s request in 2001.

If Felner had filled out the disclosure forms, he would have had to include his financial relationship with the Illinois center, and the fact that Felner was a paid director of a research center at the University of Rhode Island, which received some of the grant money.

Under the university’s financial disclosure policy, Felner and all other faculty or staff involved in research were required each year to show any economic or monetary interests outside their employment with the university, including outside consultant fees, equity interests in publicly held companies and royalty income under a patent license.

Isn’t it great how the C-J continues this $694,000 grant bit but is slowly backing down?

Doesn’t it appear that Felner’s bosses at UofL had to be aware that he was not properly filing financial disclosure forms? Everybody we have spoken with who has ever had a hand in managing a grant says there’s no way on earth the university administration wasn’t aware. And one now has to wonder why the administration allowed these conflicts of interest to exist for five years.

Please Please Please Let It Be Friday Already

What happens when you have way too many espressos in a short period of time? We just found out. You float up to Jesus and then start doing updates really early in the afternoon. And you listen to some fancy band called State Radio sing fancy songs about keepsakes and Darfur and daydream about delicious Indian food.

Lookit! The Courier-Journal is now claiming to have “exclusives!” The paper’s editors finally got tired of being beat to the punch by lowly bloggers and people on the teevee. And they probably got tired of their reporters coming to us for story idears. Fancy, we know. [The ‘Ville Voice]

Aww, poor John McCain and Joe Lieberman and their fancy “Straight Talk” Express. Making right turns in left-only lanes, demolishing minivans, acting just like crazy old men are supposed to act in the land of retirement– Florida. This is absolutely beautiful. [Wonkette]

Mitch McConnell is hiding behind outdated campaign finance rules for the U.S. Senate. Why? Probably to hide all of the scandalous and corrupt corporate interest money that’s funneled his way 24/7. [Huffington Post]

Did you know there’s a new fancy pants publication in the metropolis of Frankfort, Kentucky? Food and dining, horses, tourism. All the fun stuff in Frankvegas. [Capital Living]

Oh snap! We forgot to mention how Bill Bartleman and Ronnie Ellis wore cute matching outfits on KET’s Comment on Kentucky during the Fancy Farm shenanigans last week. How awesome was that for all two of us who watched it? [WKJP]

If you’re like us, you do very important things with your time. Which is why you should go vote for your favorite second-place cheezburger of all time! You can has vote. Wif much win! And maybe eated a cookie. Dr Tinycat to the OR STAT! [I Can Has Cheezburger]

Thursday Is Great Because It’s Almost Friday

You thought Kentucky politics were jacked up? Get a load of this race in Tennessee! HOLY WOW. Jacked up. [Wonkette]

$450,000 in checks from the University of Louisville to the National Center on Public Education and Prevention were deposited into a Louisville bank. And Robert Felner, whom we saw at a Bats game last night, has his hand in the cookie jar. His attorney says he’s helping to locate and reimburse any funds that could be in question. [C-J]

UPDATE: In the C-J’s updated story, the myth of this entire investigation being about one single grant is still perpetuated. Still. Two months later.

Speaking of the University of Louisville… Been wondering what your buddies at UofL make each year? Find out by searching the UofL salary database. [H-L]

Kentucky favorite Al Smith won a fancy award from the Society of Professional Journalists. He was one of three people named as Fellows of the Society. The other two were Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Tim Russert. [PolWatchers]

Today Rep. John Yarmuth (KY-03) will examine the domino effects of high gas prices. He’ll be delivering Meals on Wheels in the A.M. hours and will make a delivery for Kentucky Harvest to Wayside Christian Mission in Louisville in the afternoon. Wouldn’t it be hilarious to see Anne Northup helping the needy or the homeless with her bare hands?  Or donating $150K to charity every year? [Press Release]

Wasted Money at Western Kentucky University

Man, the high-dollar swindling of higher education is rampant!

A probe at Western Kentucky University has revealed that former professor Katrina Phelps could have swindled $33,000 from federal grants totaling more than $4.8 million. Though, that $33K amount could change as the investigation moves along.

The FBI would neither confirm nor deny any investigations involving Phelps, said James Hendricks, senior supervisory agent at the FBI in Bowling Green.

In July 2007, a former WKU student reported concerns regarding possible fraud in two federally funded community outreach programs, according to WKU documents. The programs provided structured activities for at-risk youth during out-of-school hours.
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The U.S. Department of Justice removed Phelps as the ALIVE Center’s contact on grants on Oct. 25 and Phelps was removed from all ALIVE Center duties Nov. 2. She subsequently turned in her resignation Nov. 8 and formally left WKU in December.
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WKU declined open records requests for additional information involving its internal investigation of allegations against Phelps or for copies of the audits done by the university, saying that those records have been part of a subpoena by the FBI.

“The university declines to release any related records because the records are being and have been compiled in the process of detecting and investigating statutory violations, and the disclosure of the information would harm the agency by revealing, prematurely, information to be used in a prospective law enforcement action,” Wilkins wrote.

Anyone else experiencing a bit of deja vu?

When will higher education in Kentucky end this era of corruption?