The questionable financial dealings revealed in a Kansas State University audit seem to validate the Kansas Board of Regents’ decision to order the review as part of the school’s presidential transition.
In fact, it may make some wonder whether such audits should be done more often, not just when a president or chancellor resigns or retires.
The regents released information on Friday about an audit conducted for the board by an independent consultant. The study looked at the dealings of three private, nonstate entities: the KSU Alumni Association, the KSU Foundation and KSU Athletics. The university’s president has authority over those accounts, and the regents sought the review as former President Jon Wefald turned his duties over to new President Kirk Schulz.
Unfortunately, the audit uncovered some unpleasant surprises, including conflicts of interest in the operation of a business incubator at KSU and questions about how employees in the KSU athletics department were paid. Notable among those questions were 13 undocumented payments totaling $845,000 to football coach Bill Snyder and two former athletic directors, Tim Weiser and Bob Krause.
Wefald apparently had delegated much of the responsibility for the funds to Krause, who also served as his longtime assistant. Krause resigned last month after a $3 million deferred compensation package for former football coach Ron Prince came to light. Although Wefald accomplished many positive things for K-State, it appears his trust in Krause may have been misplaced.
This was the first time the regents had conducted such an audit, but similar reports also have been ordered for Kansas University and Pittsburg State University as the new KU chancellor and PSU president prepare to take office. It’s a positive move that allows a new chief executive to begin work with a clean slate, but it also raises the question of whether such audits should be done more often.
Wefald was president of KSU for 22 years. Robert Hemenway served as KU chancellor for 14 years, and Tom Bryant is retiring after nine years at Pittsburg. That’s a long time, plenty of time for mischief to occur in the handling of funds that are only audited when a president or chancellor leaves office.
It’s good that the questionable dealings at KSU have come to light and that the new president will have the opportunity to implement recommendations in the audit and take additional steps to make sure similar problems don’t recur. Hopefully no serious irregularities will be discovered in similar audits at KU and Pittsburg, but if there are problems, it might motivate the Board of Regents to rethink its policy and call for periodic audits during a chief executive’s term rather than just when he or she retires or resigns.