TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A scathing new report from state investigators contends that Florida A&M University didn’t keep track of expenses and finances for its famed Marching 100 band.
The investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was launched in the aftermath of the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. State investigators looking into Champion’s death last November found problems with the band’s finances and started a separate probe. The band has been suspended for this year and 12 former members have been charged with felony hazing in connection to Champion’s death.
The probe into university finances resulted in the arrest last month of the university events director on misdemeanor charges. The final report released on Wednesday did not find any additional wrongdoing, but it does fault the university for lax oversight.
Among the findings: Travel per diem payments intended for band members going to football games were handed out to students, some still in elementary school, along with university alumni and others not even enrolled at FAMU. The report states that neither former band director Julian White or FAMU officials could explain why this happened.
In another instance White who resigned from his job earlier this year waited three months before reporting the theft in thousands of dollars of band dues that he collected months earlier. The FDLE report raises questions about how much was stolen during the 2007 incident, noting that, while witnesses said as much as $40,000 may have been stolen, White told FAMU police the amount was only around $12,000.
Investigators also discovered that the university allowed White to get paid extra for outside band performances. In addition, the FDLE review states that investigators had trouble verifying purchases made by FAMU employees as well as travel reimbursements.
“Nearly all of the issues and concerns identified pursuant to this investigation resulted from FAMU and its employees’ failure to comply with university policy and procedure,” the FDLE report concludes. “Furthermore, the investigation revealed that a lack of internal controls and administrative oversight substantially contributed to a systemic lack of regard for or adherence to university policy and procedure.”
Interim President Larry Robinson issued a statement Wednesday saying that he had received the report “late this afternoon and our team is reviewing it for additional corrective action.” Likewise, a spokeswoman for State University System of Florida Chancellor Frank Brogan said he had not had a chance to review the report.
Chuck Hobbs, an attorney representing White, said the veteran band director had fully cooperated with investigators and even handed over his banking records.
Hobbs said that the final report exonerated White of any wrongdoing. White was fired right after Champion’s death, but he was then reinstated and placed on leave at the request of state investigators. White wound up retiring the same week that the university disclosed that more than 100 band members weren’t even enrolled FAMU students at the time of Champion’s death.
“Dr. White is satisfied that the rank speculation as to his culpable negligence and/or misconduct has been proved unfounded and he looks forward to enjoying his retirement with his family,” Hobbs said in a statement.
Hobbs in his statement did address the theft of the band dues, saying that the room where the money was stored was unlocked at the time of the theft. He added that White had offered to make up for the stolen funds, but that the case was closed without the university requesting payment.