MU athletic department cracks down on use of school-issued credit cards

COLUMBIA (AP) — The Missouri athletics department is tightening employee use of school-issued credit cards after an audit found a series of improper purchases, including bills for more than $7,600 from a Las Vegas strip club.

Department spokesman Chad Moller said Tuesday that director of video operations Michael Schumacher had repaid $7,605.50 for two credit charges from a May 5, 2011, visit to Olympic Garden. One of the charges included a $2,000 tip on a $4,400 bill at a nightclub billed as the “only Vegas strip club on the Strip.”

Schumacher was representing Mizzou at a professional conference but traveled alone, Moller said. He said “responsive and appropriate disciplinary action was taken,” but he was unable to elaborate on a personnel matter. Schumacher did not respond to several messages left at his home and campus office.

The Aug. 14 Pricewaterhouse Coopers audit — part of a routine and periodic review of university business functions — also flagged nearly $3,000 in charges by former men’s basketball director of operations Jeff Daniels, who now works at Arkansas under former Tigers coach Mike Anderson.

Daniels billed the school for two charges of $1,489.54 each at the Vince Young Steakhouse in Austin, Texas, in January 2011; there is a $2,500 transaction limit. Those charges were for a team meal, both he and Moller said. Moller estimated the traveling party consisted of approximately 30 people, including coaches, team members and support staff, meaning an average dinner cost of nearly $100 per person.

Most of the remaining 85 purchases singled out by auditors involved much smaller amounts, from Federal Express invoices to three-ring notebooks for athletes’ academic support. There was a $77.83 purchase of flowers for athletic director Mike Alden.

Each of the comparatively few personal purchases made by employees on university purchasing cards was repaid, Moller pointed out.

“We’re very happy with the results of the audit,” he said. “Keep in mind that during the time period of the review, athletics had close to 14,000 (purchasing) card purchases. (The flagged charges) represents a very small percentage.”

The university has deactivated 32 credit cards out of the 120 that had been issued to athletics employees before the audit, Moller added.

An audit summary was presented to the university’s Board of Curators at its September meeting in Columbia. The Associated Press subsequently obtained a copy of the complete report as well as the documents related to the improper charges through a public records request under Missouri law.

The audit also recommended Missouri tighten its procedures for giving away free tickets and accounting for unused tickets to campus sporting events. The report noted while Alden and his compliance office are in charge of ticket giveaways, and two ticket managers assist Alden with reconciling those lists after games, an independent review is preferable.

The audit determined “some users with access to the ticketing system also have custody of tickets and control the reconciliation process,” which increases “the risks that the reconciliations could be manipulated and unauthorized tickets could be distributed.”

The issue of athletic ticket office oversight is a familiar one in the Big 12 Conference, Missouri’s previous affiliation before it left for the Southeastern Conference earlier this year.

At Kansas, seven athletics officials were convicted for profiting from the unlawful sale of Jayhawk football and basketball season tickets to ticket brokers. Several of the key players were forced to pay back more than $2 million.

Missouri athletics responded to the audit’s ticket office findings by now having its business office “conduct an independent reconciliation at the end of each sport season,” Moller said.

Employees are also on notice. An undated document provided to the AP entitled “athletic department response to the purchasing card review” notes “personal use of purchasing cards (is) being tracked and reviewed with more scrutiny than in the past.”

“It is not OK to just collect reimbursement after personal use,” the document states. “Enforcement of misused cards will result in a range of consequences from reduced limits, suspended and canceled card use and human resource personnel actions being taken when deemed necessary.”

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