The state will no longer seek reimbursement from a former University of Wisconsin-Whitewater dean who was fired for financial mismanagement, under a legal settlement made public Thursday.
Under the settlement, former dean of graduate studies and continuing education Lee Jones dropped a federal lawsuit that claimed university officials discriminated against him because he’s black.
In exchange, state lawyers dropped a countersuit that sought to recapture at least $10,000 in school money they say he misspent on things like computers, furniture and travel for himself. Jones acknowledged accounting mistakes but denied spending money on himself.
“We’re happy to have this behind us,” UW System spokesman David Giroux said Thursday.
Jones was fired as dean two years ago after a stinging audit accused him of financial mismanagement. The audit said he repeatedly broke university rules for spending and travel during his one-year tenure as dean. It also faulted UW-Whitewater for a lack of oversight.
Lawyers for both sides notified U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa of the settlement this week. Randa accepted the deal on Wednesday and officially dismissed both cases.
Both sides wanted to keep the deal quiet. The settlement included a rare clause that neither would notify the press about the deal. If contacted, they were to say “only that all matters related to Dr. Jones’ employment at the university have been resolved.”
Jones and university officials also agreed not to publicly disparage each other. In addition, state lawyers agreed to return confidential medical and financial records such as bank statements and tax information to Jones.
The settlement ends a scandal that embarrassed the university. University officials who hired him in 2004 were unaware that he had resigned from Florida State University shortly after auditors there raised questions about his spending. Auditors in Wisconsin say questionable spending started shortly after he started.
As part of their countersuit, state lawyers unsealed a previously secret investigation that alleged Jones improperly spent school money on computers, furniture, travel and his personal consulting business.
The investigation found Jones purchased expensive leather chairs and a laptop that later vanished and was reimbursed twice for some expenses and uncovered unexplained credit card charges from businesses near Jones’ home.
Jones also returned a university computer to Best Buy but kept a gift card for $1,200 for himself, the investigation said.
Jones also used university resources to print posters for his consulting business and to promote his gigs as a motivational speaker, the report said.
Jones said the claims were not true and he was singled out for tougher scrutiny because of his race. He said administrators conspired to drive him from campus and ruin his career.
Jones’ lawyer, Bob Kasieta, said his client has moved to Florida and is pursuing jobs in higher education. He said the state’s agreement not to pursue reimbursement helped make the deal possible.
“He is happy with the settlement,” Kasieta said.
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