ORLANDO, Fla. – An independent study into the University of Central Florida's misuse of restricted funds found no employees benefited from the $38 million used to build a new learning space on campus; however, it also found the university can do more to encourage employees to step forward if they learn of unethical aciticity.
The university hired an outside law firm, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, in September to conduct an investigation into how much money was used improperly and who was aware of the issue after a state audit discovered funds meant for operations were used to construct a $38 million building.
On Friday, UCF released the findings from that three-month-long independent study. The report found that in addition to $51.8 million of Education and General funding misused to build Trevor Colbourn Hall and other university construction projects, an additional $32.7 million of Education and General funds were budgeted for construction projects but never spent. UCF officials said that money has now been removed for those facilities.
In September, Bill Merck, UCF's vice president and chief financial officer, was removed from his position.
His resignation came after then Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran launched an investigation into UCF spending of Education and General funds after the state audit.
“Merck took full responsibility for the decision to use (Education and General) funds to build (Trevor Colbourn Hall)," the study said of Merck. "Since then, he has consistently and openly acknowledged his role in the matter.”
Merck said in September the reason for using the $38 million to build Trevor Colbourn Hall was due to the lack of funding. The law firm's investigation found other funding options existed, "none of which were subject to the same restrictions as E&G.”
The study also clears UCF President Dale Whittaker, who was not president when the funds were misappropriated for the construction project, and determines the board of trustees did not have knowledge about the misuse of spending.
"I want to be clear about one finding now: The report determined that President Dale Whittaker, our Board of Trustees and I did not know and were never told that the use of Education and General funds to build Trevor Colbourn Hall was inappropriate," board of trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena said in a statement.
The board will discuss the final report at the Fairwinds Alumni Center Friday at 3 p.m.