Bowie State's fund-raising abuses Critical audit: Lack of oversight by president led to $182,000 in misspent funds intended for scholarships.

September 02, 1998

BOWIE STATE University and the college's private fund-raising foundation are in need of firm, responsible leadership.

That may be the only way to clean up the abuses and gross overspending by the foundation and the near-total lack of accountability exhibited by Bowie's president, Nathaniel Pollard Jr.

An audit undertaken by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents found glaring examples of misspending, ranging from Kennedy Center tickets, Redskins season tickets, rental cars, purchases of fine clothing and pet-care products to extra pay for TC the foundation's director, highly questionable contracts for work that was never performed, purchases of art and $2,300 in missing furniture.

Some $182,000 was taken from scholarship and campus activity funds to pay for these frivolous expenses. The audit report indicated that President Pollard apparently ordered many of these expenditures.

Former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, who is a regent on the audit committee, noted in his typically understated manner, "There was a lack of checks and balances over the foundation's funds." Things were so chaotic, Mr. Hughes said, that auditors found no trace of any budget for the foundation.

Dr. Pollard bears the brunt of the criticism. He failed to request ongoing financial information about the foundation.

Indeed, he seems to have precipitated many of these spending sprees, according to the audit.

Bowie State's misadventures in fund raising and a similar finding at Salisbury State come at an inopportune time for the university system, which is in the midst of a $700 million fund drive. As more emphasis is placed on private fund raising, regents must establish strict accountability standards -- and strict punishment for those who violate these standards.

Toward that end, the university system has set up a commission to review the oversight of all fund-raising organizations under its broad umbrella. But this report won't be presented to the Board of Regents until December.

What happens in the interim?

More to the point, what happens at Bowie State? The misspending may have jeopardized the Bowie foundation's federal tax-exempt status. Can a discredited college president, who helped create the foundation's deficit, be entrusted to make things right?

It is time for the regents to give new powers to the University of Maryland Foundation to exert financial and audit power over individual campus foundations -- and to make the findings public on a regular basis. The lack of firm controls cannot be tolerated. Spending scholarship dollars so foundation officials can live high off the hog is a betrayal of both donors and students who desperately need financial aid to continue their education.

This situation must stop. The regents should act rapidly to restore integrity to Bowie State's fund-raising activities and then put in place safeguards to ensure the integrity of all fund-raising subsidiaries under the university system.

Pub Date: 9/02/98

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