The U.S. housing secretary and former regent testified Friday that he lost confidence in Texas Southern University’s ex-president after details about a spending scandal became public.
The trial of Dr. Priscilla Slade, the former president of the state’s largest historically Black university, began Friday with the testimony of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson. Jackson was a member of the TSU Board of Regents that hired Slade as president in 1999.
Prosecutors allege Slade misspent more than half a million dollars of TSU money during the seven years she ran the school to lavishly decorate her homes.
Her attorney argued the spending was legitimate and Slade’s focus was on improving the university, not enriching herself.
“She worked 24/7 to save that university,” attorney Mike DeGeurin said.
Slade, 55, is on trial for one of two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property with a value over $200,000 that she was indicted on last year. If convicted, she could face up to life in prison.
An audit also concluded she spent nearly $650,000 during seven years on purchases not allowed under her contract.
Jackson said that when news first broke about the spending scandal at TSU, he called Slade about it and asked her if more allegations were going to surface. She told him no, he said.
But when more allegations were made, Jackson called her and said, “I’m very disappointed in you.”
Slade was credited for her work as interim president, but soon as she became the permanent president later in 1999, she began her illegal spending, including $48,864 for furniture and nearly $22,000 for flooring, prosecutor Julian Ramirez said. She spent more than $143,000 on her home in the Houston suburb of Missouri City.
Jackson told jurors the TSU regents never approved any of these expenses. Her contract gave her a monthly housing allowance of $4,000.
The spending scandal cost Slade her job in April 2006. She and three other TSU workers were later indicted. TSU’s former chief financial officer, Quintin Wiggins, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May.
The allegations coincided with reports that revealed a pattern of financial mismanagement at TSU and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call for a state takeover of the university that was later put on hold. The entire nine-member board of regents resigned at Perry’s request.
– Associated Press
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