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SC State audit shows fund misuse, overpayments, nepotism

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With more than $4 million in the hole and lingering questions over money surrounding the James Clyburn Transportation Center, another audit has surfaced at SC State University. 

The Clyburn Transportation Center is nearly 15 years behind schedule and one building is all they have to show for the $80 million research center.

State auditors the center may never be finished.

"If these types of issues aren't corrected, you might end up in a situation where the university is debarred from a particular grant," said former SC State internal investigator and former head of SLED Reggie Lloyd.

That's what happened with the Transportation Center. The university lost its federal designation and an SCDOT audit shows the same spending troubles that have haunted the university's spending for years.

The university hired Lloyd 6 months ago to help them figure out what's gone wrong.

"Our relationship with the university has ended," said Lloyd.

Lloyd says he terminated his contract with the university after the board forced President George Cooper out and the board gave up on the internal investigation.

"We were a long way from finished," said Lloyd of the investigation.

The latest audit shows SC State misused dollars earmarked for the Clyburn Center. The center's director of research, Dr. G. Dale Wesson, told us by phone they made simple mistakes.

"I don't want to brush it off, but we did have some discussions with them in that. To be quite honest, if we would have had the rest of our crap together they probably would have just waived it," Wesson said.

Auditors found overpayments to employees, wrongly charging training to the grant, and, in one case, an employee hired his daughter to do work for the Clyburn Center and didn't tell the university they were related.

"It's kind of -- I don't want to say nit-picky because we violated the rules -- but it was not in what I would say a deceitful manner," Wesson said. "We just made some mistakes."

A state audit of the Clyburn Center in 2011 led to a federal investigation on campus. That's when former President Cooper hired Lloyd to help him identify employees who needed to go. Weeks before Cooper resigned, he fired eight top-level staffers.

Lloyd never finished his investigation after the board gave up on it in April.

Lloyd says a lot of the information came from the inside by people who want the problems fixed.

"They did so out of their love for the university," Lloyd said. "That's the irony here. They really wanted a lot of these issues to be cleaned up because they felt like it was short-changing the faculty and staff, but the students who are most important to them."

In this audit, the state DOT wants an $8,000 check from the university.

As for the Clyburn Center, it'll take around another $50 million to finish it. That's a price tag that some on the board have said the university may never be able to come up with.

Sources say the federal investigation could be over by the end of the year.

Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.

SIDEBAR: SC State Audit


Click here to read the audit of South Carolina State University (PDF).

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