Another Week, Another Robert Felner Update

The Providence Journal published a story today about the Robert Felner investigation that provides confirmation for information we have already published and (aside from playing loose with dollar amounts, just like the C-J) makes a couple new revelations.

U.S. Attorney David Huber says the investigation will be over in a couple months, will be a “short one.”

“We typically don’t comment on criminal investigation, but since the University of Louisville already released a statement, we can confirm that there is an investigation,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Huber by phone last week. “It is still ongoing, but we expect the matter will probably come to a head in the next month or so.” Huber said fraud investigations typically take longer, “but this will be a short one,” he said.

Sources at the University of Rhode Island went on-the-record to reveal what the Secret Service was looking for. URI officials also spoke a bit about contracts with UofL and Felner’s past work.

A team of Secret Service agents came to South Kingstown late last month and again earlier this month, Saccoccio said, and asked about contracts URI had with the research foundation at the University of Louisville, specifically with Felner. Saccoccio said the agents did not remove any files or computers.

“There have been two visits by the Secret Service — there may have been one other one, I’m not sure — and they were interested in any contracts we had with the research foundation at the University of Louisville,” Saccoccio said. “We did have two subcontracts for $60,000 each, to collect and prepare data for research, similar to the SALT survey.”

While in Rhode Island, Felner developed the SALT survey, known nationally as the High Performance Learning Communities Assessment, which has been used for several years in the state’s public schools to improve school culture.

And the paper reiterates what we’ve been saying for a while now: the $694,000 figure is being pushed by the Courier-Journal because the University of Louisville wants the paper to push that amount.

University officials in Louisville were concerned about a $694,000 federal grant Felner received that apparently never went toward its intended purpose –– to establish a No Child Left Behind center in collaboration with the Kentucky Education Department, according to The Louisville Courier-Journal.

And on a somewhat related note – we filed a records request with the University of Louisville last week to determine whether or not the University is paying for crisis management and public relations to help deal with the Felner scandal. As you can see by checking out the list of personal service contracts (PDF Link), there doesn’t appear to be anything Felner-related. So we don’t have to be up in arms over Jim Ramsey’s performance and commentary about Felner here, here, here and here. Maybe it’s time Ramsey hired some professionals. His email sent to those affiliated with UofL earlier this morning is evidence alone that he needs some serious assistance digging the university out of this hole.

UofL President & Provost Respond to Public Outcry from Faculty, Staff, Students, Colleagues

Finally, the President and Provost of the University of Louisville, Jim Ramsey and Shirley Willihnganz, have addressed the Robert Felner scandal and ongoing federal investigation. In a letter to students, faculty and staff today, the two officials spin absolutely out of control. It is becoming more and more clear that UofL has something to hide or has no clue how to handle public relations.

This multi-million dollar scandal is not something that should be brushed off and explained away with spin. It is not a matter that can be addressed with a simple email. This is a matter that needs to be taken extremely seriously. Reading comments left on Page One should more than reveal that there are painfully deep wounds at UofL and the administration needs to recognize this. And fast.

Before you read the message, we need to address a couple points made by both the Provost and President.

Money isn’t everything when it comes to education. Remember it. Having $47 million in grants and getting on a list in a magazine shouldn’t be the goal you’re publicly shooting for. That’s embarrassing and laughable coming from one of the country’s most prestigious state schools.

The media have not “second-guessed” early warning signs about Robert Felner. We have published on this website that more than four grievances were filed against Felner during his time at the University of Louisville. And we published more than 30 complaints against the man. There is absolutely NO evidence that grievances were taken seriously. And there were multiple occasions (on annual Faculty Grievance Officer reports) during which the FGO recommended UofL address concerns within the College of Education and Human Development. To say otherwise is a total lie.

Information was not “leaked” to the media. The media, including this website, have published documents obtained through open records requests and interviews with faculty, staff and students at the University of Louisville and other schools. No information was “leaked.” That’s a fabrication on the part of Ramsey and Willihnganz.

Jim Ramsey himself admitted that there were no controls in place to prevent massive fraud on the scale of which we’re dealing with here. There’s no way on earth an internal review of control structures could not reveal weaknesses, because there’s obviously a huge weakness at UofL that allowed potentially millions of dollars to be squandered.

Further, there are no legal constraints preventing the President and the Provost from informing and communicating with faculty, staff and students about the Felner investigation. It is solely up to UofL whether or not the school releases information. There’s no law preventing disclosure of information.

Read the interesting email after the jump…

Read more

C-J Recaps Felner Investigation, More on Tom Schroeder, Perpetuation of $694,000 Myth

Now other players in the years-long Robert Felner may-be-squandering-grant-money saga are admitting that they’re working with federal investigators.

We learn from the Courier-Journal’s Chris Kenning that Tom Schroeder, the guy who served as the head of Felner’s “non-profit” National Center on Education and Prevention in Rock Island, Illinois is cooperating with investigators.

But the bit Chris Kenning is missing is that the organization wasn’t Schroeder’s– but Robert Felner’s. Felner always told people it was his organization and UofL thought it was his organization. And Felner’s other National Center at the University of Rhode Island also listed copyright information indicating that the Illinois org was Felner’s.

Something you won’t believe we’re about to say: the C-J is beginning to ‘get it.’ We hear the paper is dedicating more time and effort to the story. Based on what we’ve personally seen, it looks like criticism finally woke the C-J up. It’s put experienced, skilled staff on the job as a result and we’re already seeing improvements in reporting. Here’s hoping.

More about Tom, Felner’s man in IL: Sources at the University of Louisville and the University of Rhode Island tell us that Tom was involved in transferring data from URI to a new server that was purchased at UofL. But very little data was ever transferred. Meaning there was no data to begin with or it was erased– which is what investigators we’ve spoken with seem to believe. We’re not sure, since we can’t figure out what Felner ever did in the first place other than bring in money. This investigation is going to get very interesting as new details leak out.

Finally, it wouldn’t be the C-J if someone wasn’t saying this investigation only involves a $694,000 grant. This weekend it’s Bob Hill perpetuating that myth. Note to the C-J: This is bigger than a $694,000 grant!  Just dig a little bit on this very website and you’ll see what we mean.

Friday Afternoon Dept of It’s The Weekend!

It’s Friday. We’re ready to blow this you-know-what. So enjoy your weekend! Don’t do anything we would do.

First Lady Jane Beshear today announced ‘Horses and Hope’ – a program to fight breast cancer. Along with the Kentucky Cancer Program, the project will work with the horse industry to provide breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referrals and will raise funds to keep the program alive. [Press Release]

According to computer genius and lord of all things FEAR!, John McCain is now calling Barack Obama a socialist. PINKO COMMIE HOMO ELITIST ARUGULA FEEEEAR! [Barefoot & Progressive]

Even the heavily Republican Wall Street Journal says Mitch McConnell is facing a tough reelection bid. Thanks to his super-tight ties to Dubya, of course. [WSJ]

Interested in reading a super-fancy fluff fest of a butt licking given to UofL president Jim Ramsey by a major business publication? All because he refused to accept a $113,000 (!!) bonus on top of his already half-million dollar salary. Never mind that millions of dollars in grant dollars were squandered on his watch. [Business First]

Thankfully a judge killed a subpoena that would have killed the freedoms members of the press currently enjoy when it comes to protecting sources. Demanding a journalist to hand over sources. Riiight. The attorney on that case really must not enjoy his own personal freedoms. [C-J]

Dirty liberal and former sneaky political operative Robert Kahne has an interesting take on Bluegrass Report’s rebirth (?) and the Kentucky blogosphere in general. Seems to be the consensus among media types everywhere. [Documenting My Audacity]

And since it’s the weekend… INVISIBL OLIMPIKS!!! [I Can Has Cheezburger?]

The Courier-Journal and the Felner Investigation

The entire Courier-Journal editorial board is now spreading the myth that the federal investigation into Robert Felner’s activities is only about a $694,000 federal grant. Myth/lie/whatever. It’s not the truth. Law enforcement tells us otherwise. The mainstream media in other states tell us otherwise. This investigation is huge and federal agents have been on multiple college campuses in several states. It’s not only $694K that they’re after. Just yesterday The Journal Times reported that the investigation involved millions.  So it’s not a stretch to expect our local paper of record to get the facts correct.

But the C-J seems content piling on the dishonesty or being ill-informed. This needs to stop. Immediately.

Then the board goes on to attack University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey for attempting to white wash the Felner scandal. The paper obviously pussyfoots around the whole shebang, but at least it’s doing what should have been done WEEKS ago.  We’re proud to finally read it:

But problems were not just financial. A striking number of grievances and complaints from faculty and students were filed against Dr. Felner, who lost a faculty confidence vote, 27-24. While saying the university took all of this seriously, Dr. Ramsey interprets it as evidence that Dr. Felner “was bringing about change that needed to be made.” But there’s a difference between changing menus and breaking plates.

Dr. Ramsey’s evidence that Dr. Felner was getting things done includes the college’s rise in national rankings over the last two years. But then U.S. News & World Report’s lists are taken with a grain of salt by academic experts.

He also cites an increase in grants and a stronger relationship with local public schools. But an independent campus group — maybe an American Association of University Professors committee, including tenured faculty who can’t be easily dismissed or marginalized — should take its own look, not only at the rankings issue but at the other complaints that have been lodged, formally and informally, and into the U of L administration’s response.

These are serious issues, and must not be dismissed as the backwash of change.

Thanks to the C-J for finally waking up. Maybe now the paper can work on getting Nancy Rodriguez to stop repeatedly writing that a $694,000 grant is the only reason for the Felner investigation, as she did again today.

We admire her for finally reporting that grant dollars went to a defunct non-profit organization– something this site, WHAS11 and the Kenosha News reported weeks ago. Now the public in Kentucky who don’t watch television or use the internet can finally learn about a little of what’s gone down.

But we find it highly suspicious that Rodriguez and the C-J published this glowing review of the University of Louisville and its President for being a “leader in preserving our environment” with the headline “U of L begins audit to boost energy savings.”

More On Ramsey’s Comments About Robert Felner

Sure, you thought what Nancy Rodriguez published in the Courier-Journal yesterday about UofL President Jim Ramsey’s comments was a big deal. But what will you think when you discover the C-J didn’t report everything Ramsey said about former education Dean Robert Felner?

Let’s find out. Mark Hebert caught up with Ramsey at the same press conference Rodriguez did and had a few questions for the President.

Check out these clips from last evening’s newscast:

Nice body language, eh?

Totally dismisses 33 grievances, calling them “anonymous crap.” (Not all were anonymous) Said it’s “cheap” if people don’t have the courage to put their name on a complaint, never mind the fears of faculty, staff and students over possible reprisal. He said having 33 grievances filed against Felner meant he was “bringing about change that needed to be made.” We can only assume “sexual harassment” and “intimidation” mean the same thing as “change.”

Oh– and he said he hadn’t seen the internal Felner investigation.

Yeah, wow. Our favorite part is when Ramsey suggests that “getting a little weak” and “violating the law now and then” is a-okay.

We’ll let you know when we find out how much UofL is paying for public relations and crisis management. If it’s anything more than $0.00, it’s a total waste of taxpayer money.

And on a related note, Rodriguez has a new story in today’s C-J where she again leads readers to believe the Felner investigation is only about a $694,000 grant. Which is not remotely true. We have spoken with individuals interviewed by federal investigators at the University of Louisville, University of Rhode Island, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois and other schools and within minutes of speaking with them were aware that the investigation is massive. The $694K grant is, like we said, the tip of an iceberg.

Nancy finally brings up the number of grievances and complaints filed against Felner (there are 33, not 31) and focuses on an email Felner sent to grants management officials at the University of Louisville. In the message, Felner stated that, “We really need to show good faith for the feds.” Boy, did he ever.