$21K audit finds $6K motor missing from CFCC

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- The Marine Technology program has recently been a source of pride for Cape Fear Community College, but a visit by state auditors may have exposed a leak.

Earlier this year the State Auditor's Office received an anonymous tip that someone at Cape Fear Community College had lied on a school-issued inventory report.

"Basically an asset of the community college was given to somebody else, and then the records were covered up that said where it was," State Auditor Beth Wood said.

State investigators found that some time in 2011, Marine Technology instructor Robert Parker gave an outboard motor worth about $6,000 to a student.

Click here to read the full report and CFCC response

Parker declined to do an interview, but he said he got permission to give the motor to one of his best students, and that it was a simple mistake when he marked it on his inventory.

"We had to look into and make sure if the community college was remiss in not having the proper policies and procedures in place," Wood said. "What you have here that we've been able to substantiate that the community college has its procedures in place, so it makes you feel comfortable about other assets that the college has."

After more than 290 hours working on the case, the investigation cost taxpayers close to $21,000, but Wood says the report offers college leaders peace of mind.

"The fact is that you had an instructor that totally ignored the checks and balances that the college had in place," Wood said. "It's not just about the $6,000 motor. It's your level of comfort about all of the other assets that the college owns."

School leaders would not talk about the investigation, but in a response to the audit they said the chair of the Marine Technology department received a disciplinary letter. Parker retired last month.

The student returned the motor

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Let's be clear: Robert Parker got permission from Yamaha and his CFCC department chair to LOAN the motor to an excellent student. The motor was old, unsalable by Yamaha, didn't work properly when CFCC received it, couldn't be repaired with existing CFCC tools (required special Yamaha tools), lacked controls to start the thing, and had been sitting unused in Parker's shop for 2 years.

Yamaha was hoping to get their engines into technical schools, naturally enough.

When he LOANED the engine, WITH PERMISSION, Parker was hoping for useful feedback on a Yamaha engine he could neither use nor repair...No money was exchanged. No injury was imposed on anyone, not even taxpayers ---who were already paying for the space occupied by this huge, broken engine.

The inventory apparently allowed Parker 2 choices.....either the engine was "accounted for" or it was "not accounted for". It makes perfect sense that he would check the box "accounted for" since he knew exactly where it was and could retrieve it instantly, as he did....repeat: Parker retrieved the engine himself, within hours.....not the student.

The state auditors had rolled into town on a fishing expedition at CFCC, based on an anonymous tip..... and they had to find something.........Parker was nailed on a "violation of protocol" for checking the box that the engine was "accounted for.".....

......and told that his sterling 22 year record at the college was beyond reproach. So he was offered early retirement....not fired.......as I said: Raleigh had to get something out of this.....especially after spending $21K.

Where is Parker's crime? Where is the injury to the college or to taxpayers? Where is the insult, except to Parker himself who is now the object of a character smear.

He was an excellent teacher with many devoted students. He will be missed.

Hmmm who lets someone use a 6 thousand boat motor and doesn't ask for anything in return. Very fishy he doesn't remember email and they blamed it all on the guy that retired

That all state government emails were recorded and saved in state archives and had been since around 2009.
Remember this is a case involving a student, a motor that has since been returned and questionable valuation and paperwork......

I still have many questions - the most important of which is why did we spend $21K on a case involving a potential loss to the state of less than $1k of current value?
In these days of supposed belt tightening the laws of diminishing returns should apply here. OR does the State auditor not have any other investigations involving much large dollar figures going on?

Vog

Vog, I would have to defer to Surf City Tom on this as he is the ONLY "non-government guy" who can actually locate departmental line items in the state budget documents that I have encountered! I believe that the Office of the State Auditor is funded in the state budget and must spend a large percentage of its time performing audits. Fundamentally, the auditors are salaried and are performing according to their stated "mission". I am certain that this Office of the State Auditor has policies and procedures that assist them in evaluating the complaints they receive and prioritizing them as to whether or not they should be acted upon.

I don't think that it entirely fair reporting to say that this audit of CFCC "cost" the taxpayers $21K because whether or not there were findings of wrongdoing in this particular instance, the auditors would have been paid anyway.

I have interfaced with auditors for many years during my corporate life and have rarely encountered issues that could be directly seen as wrongdoing. Virtually all of these audit encounters have involved tests of procedures and controls looking to the safeguarding of assets and accurate reporting to stakeholders, creditors and taxing authorities.

From my view of this I can't say whether the expending of 290 professional hours by the State Auditor is reasonable but when we consider the testing of procedures and policies it is entirely plausible.

My read of this report and CFCC's response leads me to believe that the College is generally running a "tight ship" and the mishandling of this particular boat motor was an anomaly, not an indication that management of the college is weak or uncontrolled.

If you haven't already, may I suggest that you read the Office of the State Auditor's webpage where they publish their findings and reports.

There are many local issues that I believe could be raised to the attention of our Office of the State Auditor.

Among a few are: Is it within the scope of the authority of the NH County Commission to spend taxpayers money in pursuit of the appeal to the improperly applied amotion proceedings against Commissioner Berger?

Did the Wilmington City Council act reasonably in its expenditure of taxpayer funds for the numerous studies on the feasibility of the proposed baseball stadium?

Why does the Wilmington Film Commission exist separately as an agency instead of being a department within the municipal government concerned only with the issuance of permits and the collection of fees? The present commissioner functions an industry lobbyist, not as a public official. Why do Wilmington's taxpayers pay his salary?

The Board Chair of the CFPUA is an ex city council member who couldn't win reelection. Do his ties with commercial real estate and developers represent a conflict of interest?

Why are Wilmington City taxpayers subsidizing Wilmington Downtown and its CEO salary? Any taxpayer funded development agency needs to be concerned with the WHOLE municipality and ALL taxpayers, NOT the "FEW".

How was an exception granted to the Wilmington Housing Authority CEO who in his DWI blew almost three times the legal limit and kept his job (and six figure salary) while a career firefighter had to resign after a twenty six year tenure of service? Aren't the laws governing public employee conduct supposed to be uniformly applied?

You raise many thoughtful questions.
"Is it within the scope of the authority of the NH County Commission to spend taxpayers money in pursuit of the appeal to the improperly applied amotion proceedings against Commissioner Berger?"
Yes as far as the money part goes so long as it was discussed and voted upon. This is a question of LAW as to whether or not amotion can be used, and whether the Commission meets the burden of proving Berger is unfit for office.

"Did the Wilmington City Council act reasonably in its expenditure of taxpayer funds for the numerous studies on the feasibility of the proposed baseball stadium?"
Define reasonable? It is certainly within the confines of the city charter for them to pursue this and the means which they were going to use to pay for it was also legal. No involvement of the State Auditor is justified.

"Why does the Wilmington Film Commission exist separately as an agency instead of being a department within the municipal government concerned only with the issuance of permits and the collection of fees? The present commissioner functions an industry lobbyist, not as a public official. Why do Wilmington's taxpayers pay his salary?"
Because they want to - that's why. Many people in this city are star struck by the movie industry.
The more appropriate use of the state Auditor would be to determine the measured economic impact that the movie industry had for a particular movie that the production company received incentives for. The movie industry claims the economic impact(IMPLAN multiplier) for every dollar in incentives was $8.99. Yet, 8 states have conducted studies that measured the impact to be far less than $1 for every dollar spent. In some states it was as low as $0.19 for every dollar in incentives.

"The Board Chair of the CFPUA is an ex city council member who couldn't win reelection. Do his ties with commercial real estate and developers represent a conflict of interest?"
Do Saffo's? again a question of law.

"Why are Wilmington City taxpayers subsidizing Wilmington Downtown and its CEO salary? Any taxpayer funded development agency needs to be concerned with the WHOLE municipality and ALL taxpayers, NOT the "FEW"."
City charter allows for such expenditures and it was approved by vote of the council.

"How was an exception granted to the Wilmington Housing Authority CEO who in his DWI blew almost three times the legal limit and kept his job (and six figure salary) while a career firefighter had to resign after a twenty six year tenure of service? Aren't the laws governing public employee conduct supposed to be uniformly applied?"
I may be wrong about this but...
Housing authority gets money from both city and Federal governments, making him a hybrid employee of both entities. The Fire Chief is totally paid for and controlled by city funds/ordinances/policies.

Vog

Lets re-cap
Teacher "gives" student a motor valued at $6k (valued according to who? Used motors are worth FAR less)in 2011.
In 2013 the investigation is complete and the student has given back the motor which by the way had depreciated in value to probably less than $1K.
And this cost the taxpayers $21K?
We are supposed to be happy about the outcome?
Typical Dem eh? Spent $21K to find fault regarding a $1K piece of equipment (that was returned no less).

The only missing piece as pointed out by previous posters was why was it given out in the first place?

Vog

Somebody has it out for the Marine Technology department chair.
The auditors' report begins with a serious allegation from their hot line: "Allegedly, the Marine Technology Department Chair approved giving the motor to a graduating student (for use on the student’s private boat) in exchange for using the student’s boat free of charge."

and ended up justifying their disappointing $21,000 witch hunt with little more than a tempest in a teapot. This is what happened:

Ironically, this is an engine I neither requested nor particularly wanted. An acquaintance of mine at Yamaha called me out of the blue in 2009 and asked if I wanted one of their unsellable 2002 motors as a donation. This was during the depths of the great recession mind you and they wanted to get their product line in the hands of as many vocational/technical people as possible. A seven year old motor. They weren't interested in getting a tax write-off he told me, this was an engine they couldn't sell, one a customer wasn't happy with. Could we use it? To the best of my knowledge it was the school's inventory technician who placed the $6000 value on the motor based on the price of her husband's boat. Hardly a scientific appraisal.

I accepted the motor thinking I could use it in my engines classes, comparing Yamaha technology to Evinrude, the brand of engine we use. But it was too big, 250 hp, too complicated, too unwieldy for my introductory classes. I didn't have the special Yamaha tools for it, nor any controls to start and run the thing. The motor sat in my shop for two years. I began to regret accepting it.

In the meantime, one of my better students, familiar with Yamaha engines, had pestered me for over a year to let him try to use it. By then it was a nine year old motor. Hoping to accomplish two things at once -- free up shop space and get some user feedback as to the qualities of the motor -- I recieved permission from both Yamaha and my department chair to let my student use it. I repeat, I recieved permission, I would not have lent the motor out otherwise.

It soon became, "out of sight, out of mind," I didn't have any productive use for the motor, I had plenty of other, smaller ones for my students to work on by then. I procrastinated in getting it back. When yearly inventory came I checked it as "being accounted for," as I was certain it was in responsible hands. The day the auditors arrived I was able to contact the student and have the engine back in my shop that afternoon.

Despite this unfortunate event, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to instruct hundreds of students over the years who share the love of the ocean that I have.

How was the chair not fired? He lied and if he gave permission he should be fired period.im sure this isn't the first time he used his position to steal from college/taxpayers.

Why did Robert Parker do this?

He must feel so ashamed.

http://cfcc.edu/martech/fac_parker.html

IF, that motor was paid for with MY (tax) money, I want it back. It should be returned, promptly, to the school so that it can be utilized for its, intended, purpose.

Unless the "student" paid the school, is he not susceptible to being charged with "Obtaining Property by False Pretenses"? Does the school not have a new police department? Are they treating this as a criminal matter?

Wilmington Observer

Well,well,well.........wellll. Lets see they just got a new boat maybe they will give it away at tax payers expense.sticky fingers dont just happen something was given in place of the motor.

And the recommendation to fix this problem? "Management should also educate all College employees on the proper procedures for allowing College assets and equipment to be taken off campus."

Only in an alternate universe would a statement of this type be treated seriously.

In the real world, everyone already knows that giving a $6000 piece of college property to a student and then falsifying records to hide that is just wrong. No additional "education" required, unlike in higher "education", an area that real-worlders assume is staffed by those who already are "educated".

The question still unanswered is what motivated this instructor to give this student this motor in the first place.

YOU ARE EXACTLY RIGHT. SOMEBODY NEEDS TO FOLLOW THE MONEY. HAS ANYONE INTERVIEWED THE STUDENT WHO RECEIVED THE "GIFT"?