University of Louisville-Robert Felner Update

Just received some information that may calm a couple discussions that are currently quite heated.

Regarding the heavily discussed report from the Board of Overseers in the review of the College of Education — Received the following from the University of Louisville’s open records officer:

“I understand the BOT did begin a process of reviewing the CEHD earlier this year, but it has not completed its work and it has not issued a report.”

(We’ll stay on top of that one…)

Regarding the alleged report from Just Solutions — Here’s what the records officer had to say:

“A few weeks ago I identified two retainer-type contracts U of L had with Just Solutions. Each covered a particular period of time. Under those contracts there were some instances of employee mediation, sending people to workshops, other training, and so on. But these did not have anything to do with the College of Education and Human Development, nor did they cover the period of the particular engagement of Just Solutions in the matter of the CEHD. That engagement was a separate matter. There were a few memos related to the CEHD matter, and an itemized invoice for that work, but there was no report made in relation to that engagement.”

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

We’re Half-Way to Friday, Boys & Girls

Mitch McConnell visited Morehead on Thursday as the guest speaker at the Morehead-Rowan County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. He gave a bunch of non-answers about the health care crisis and used Great Britain’s system to scare country folks. One woman compared him to Al Gore and we’re totally blown away. For real. [The Morehead News]

Politicians really do love coal money. And that’s fine by us. They just need to be honest about the influence King Coal has on them. [Green KY]

WHAS11 touts the latest SurveyUSA data but neglects to mention the massive under sampling of Democrats by the polling firm. Proper sampling would yield VASTLY different results that are much more in line with reality. But can’t let the facts get in the way of the news. [WHAS11]

Former senate candidate Greg Fischer announced yesterday in Frankfort that he will be signing on as David Boswell’s volunteer finance chairman. We find that quite interesting since, you know, Fischer promised long ago to help Bruce Lunsford oust Mitch McConnell. [PolWatchers]

Nancy Pelosi will be one of the featured speakers on Monday night at the DNC. Along with Michelle Obama, Claire McCaskill and Craig Robinson. We’re going to be flooded with boring DNC news for like years, kids, so get used to it. [Pat Crowley]

And more from PolWatchers: Ed Martin, who filed papers as a Libertarian to run against Anne Northup and John Yarmuth in Louisville’s 3rd District U.S. House race is apparently a registered Republican. Uh, kind of hard to run as a Lib if you’re a Pub, dudes. Just saying. [PolWatchers]

Volunteers of America are honoring University of Louisville president Jim Ramsey on September 10. The organization is throwing ‘an evening of tribute’ for Ramsey because he’s allegedly focusing on improving the standard of living in Louisville. No mention of his remarks that complaints against Robert Felner were “crap.” [VOAKY]

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.

-SNIP-

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.

-SNIP-

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.