WSB: Financial Wrongdoing and Cover-up at UGA

| November 19, 2015

University of Georgia

ATHENS — The University of Georgia and its former alumni relations director are now under state investigation, after a Channel 2 Action News investigation exposed financial wrongdoing and a cover-up at the highest levels.

Records show Deborah Dietzler used state money for personal trips and skipped work without taking leave time, but the school buried the findings of an internal investigation.

“I believe this matter warrants further inquiry,” wrote Senior Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin, who has since asked the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia to investigate.

Sources say a state audit team was on campus Tuesday, just one day after the investigation exposed specifics outlined in a report drafted by the school auditor.

“The findings, which include misrepresentations on travel reimbursement documents, are of a nature that is generally reported to my office,” wrote McLaughlin, “I am concerned that the OIAC [Office of Internal Audit and Compliance] and this office never received the report.”

The internal investigation was conducted by UGA auditors after a complaint from Sallyanne Barrow, who worked under Dietzler in the alumni office.

“I’m a CPA and I had a fiduciary duty to report fraud,” Barrow told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer.

Barrow and another staffer realized Dietzler was booking marathons, with hotels and airfare around the country, then trying to find a way to bill taxpayers.

“We simply had to find people for her to meet with, anyone to justify the reason that she’s staying in these cities for so many days,” said Scott Kinney, who worked as Dietzler’s assistant.

At the Big Sur marathon in California, Kinney says Dietzler didn’t end up meeting with anyone, but billed UGA anyway.

Records show she also billed for a hotel stay 43 miles away in Gainesville, Georgia, even though she actually stayed with friends that night.

She cancelled a cheaper hotel reservation at a conference in Philadelphia, and booked a more expensive one, so she could earn reward points.

“There’s a state allowance for per diems. Often times I had to fabricate this information, just to justify it,” said Kinney.

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