By Sheena Dooley | Iowa Watchdog
DES MOINES – A special investigation by the Iowa state auditor uncovered a department head at the University of Iowa stole nearly $272,198, using taxpayer dollars to pay for trips and inappropriate performance bonuses during the past decade, according to the auditor’s report released Wednesday afternoon.
University officials requested a state review after becoming concerned about improper transactions being processed by Jennifer Whitmore-Meier, a former information technology support consultant, who was hired to oversee the IT department.
They found a Whitmore-Meier funneled a majority of the money — $203,600 – into her bank account by buying equipment with department funds and then selling them on eBay. She also racked up a $10,000 shipping bill and made $34,300 in improper purchases using her university procurement card. She used it to buy iPods, cameras, Xbox games, cleaning supplies, tools, light bulbs and books, according to state officials.
Whitmore-Meier took another nearly $15,200, of which she used to buy $876 worth of products that were returned and exchanged for gift cards she then used for personal purchases. Whitmore-Meier pocketed an additional $2,046 in rebates from purchased goods, the report said.
Auditors also discovered inconsistencies in travel costs and false expenses.
For example, she submitted travel costs for reimbursement for a supposed training trip in New Orleans. She submitted documentation showing she arrived in New Orleans March 5, 2010 and incurred lodging, meal and other reimbursable costs. She, however, didn’t actually get to New Orleans until March 10, 2010. Her cell phone records show she was in Hawaii March 5, the report said.
In some cases, expenses were altered to show she paid more than the actual cost of items. Auditors reported $50,300 in unnecessary costs paid by the department. They include inflated travel bills, $20,600 in bonuses she received for exceptional performance. She also used thousands of dollars to pay for her personal cell phone and Internet at her house, according to auditors.
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