Friday, April 26, 2013

Affidavit: University's CFO admitted embezzlement in Texas

A West Texas university has fired its chief financial officer amid accusations he used the school's money to pay off debts he and his wife incurred.
Wayland Baptist University in Plainview confirmed Thursday it has dismissed James E. Smith. An affidavit submitted with a lawsuit filed this week by the university says Smith admitted embezzling about $40,000 over a four-year period.
The affidavit says officials became concerned after a financial review of recent campus construction pointed to irregularities. Executive Vice President and Provost Bobby Hall says in the affidavit that Smith admitted his involvement and says he was unable to repay the university.
Smith was suspended in March and fired earlier this month. He had been chief financial officer since 2001.

University officials said in a court affidavit that Smith admitted to embezzling about $40,000 over a four-year period. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Smith told Executive Vice President and Provost Bobby Hall that he had been using university funds to pay personal debts and that he didn’t have money to pay it back.

Hall’s affidavit said university officials began an internal investigation after a financial review of one campus building renovation and construction of Jimmy Dean Hall, a new men’s dormitory. The dormitory is named after a country music singer and television host popular in the 1960s now better known for the sausage company he founded in 1969.

Dean, who died in 2010, was born in born in Olton, Texas, and raised by his mother. He attributed his interest in music to singing as a child at Seth Ward Baptist Church in Plainview. He dropped out of high school to join the Merchant Marines in order to support his family, but always believed that education was a key to success.

Jimmy and Donna Dean originally gave $1 million to Wayland in 2008. In 2012, an additional $5 million was donated. Most of the money has been earmarked for a planned addition to the university museum to house Jimmy Dean memorabilia.

Jimmy Dean Hall is a three-story, 94,000-square-foot structure with 175 rooms and 300 beds that features the latest in “green” technologies and safety features. The dorm opened to students last fall. Wayland invited the public to an open house to view and tour the new facility April 28.

Wayland officials said their investigation is ongoing and that they will cooperate with police if criminal charges are filed.

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