UCF likely misappropriated more than $50 million for construction projects

Chief financial officer removed from university

By Clay LePard - Reporter

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - For more than two hours Thursday, the Board of Trustees at the University of Central Florida discussed what steps they needed to take in the wake of a state audit that revealed $38 million was used improperly for the construction of the newly opened Trevor Colbourn Hall.

On Sept.13, Bill Merck, UCF's vice president and chief financial officer, was removed from his position.

During the discussion, administrators also unveiled initial findings that show that $13.8 million may have also been used inappropriately for other projects. 

"Like you, I am upset that our trust has been betrayed, and this issue has (damaged) UCF's credibility and damaged our reputation," President Dale Whittaker said. "I'm angry and frustrated that my name appears on documents where I counted on (Merck) to provide good information."

An investigation was launched more than a week ago by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, after a state audit discovered that funds meant for operations were used to construct a $38 million building. Since then, UCF has hired an outside law firm to also conduct an investigation to discover just how much money was used improperly and who was aware of the issue.

"I don't want to prejudge the investigation, but I think it is difficult for me to believe only one person was aware that (they) were utilizing inappropriate funds," UCF Board of Trustees Chairman Marcos Marchena said of Merck's removal.

UCF officials released a statement detailing what has been done since the misused funds were discovered:

  • We identified eligible funds to replenish the E&G dollars and transferred those funds quickly following the Board of Trustees’ approval to do so. UCF’s priority was to ensure students were not adversely impacted by the financial moves. We used sources such as university investment earnings and revenues from the bookstore contract and sale of surplus property.
  • Future Board of Trustees approvals of capital projects will require a written certification by the president, vice president presenting the item, general counsel and chief financial officer, identifying and certifying the funding source as appropriate for that purpose.
  • UCF’s Vice President for Administration and Finance stepped down last week. A new chief financial officer position has been created outside of the Administration and Finance division to ensure there is separate oversight of the construction facilities and how they are funded.
  • An external law firm has been brought in to examine UCF’s processes, delegations of authority, procedures and personnel.
  • President Whittaker has instituted a moratorium on all new construction projects to be funded with at least $2 million of university funds. Vice presidents responsible for projects already under construction and funded by at least $2 million in university funds must contact UCF’s interim CFO to verify the funding sources are appropriate.

The university plans on creating a website to showcase the findings and any updates on their own investigation. 

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