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Two probes launched into UCF's misuse of funds

Posted at 12:34 PM, Sep 15, 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Two investigations have been launched into how the University of Central Florida spent $38 million to construct a building with state funds that were supposed to be used for operations.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran said Friday that he has appointed his successor, Jose Oliva, to take over the chairmanship of an ethics committee that will investigate how the money was spent at UCF. Additionally, the university has hired an outside law firm to conduct another investigation into the misuse of the money.

The university’s chief financial officer, William Merck, resigned Thursday after an audit revealed that the school had improperly used the state funds for the construction of Trevor Colbourn Hall instead of for operations like instruction, maintenance and student services.

Corcoran said in a letter to the university that the misuse of funds “has tarnished the reputation of UCF,” and he questioned whether Merck was alone in knowing about the improper use of the money. Corcoran said he would ask incoming legislative leaders to increase the number of audits of the university.

“I am baffled by how the actions of one irresponsible officer’s effort at flouting the Legislature’s and State University System’s budget controls could result in a four-year long unauthorized endeavor of this magnitude,” Corcoran said in the letter. “There are only two possibilities: that others within UCF were aware of and conspired in this misuse of public funds, or your administration lacks the necessary internal controls to manage its fiscal responsibilities.”

UCF board chairman Marcos Marchena pledged the school’s full cooperation with the investigations and said school officials would hold a meeting next week with the external investigators hired by the university.

“We welcome this action, and agree that this serious matter deserves a thorough review,” Marchena said in a statement.