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Idaho State uncovers COIs, misuse of funds at research center

By David Schwartz
Published: August 8th, 2017

An investigation of financial misdeeds at an Idaho State University research and innovation center has cost the director of the center his job, and maybe more as the findings are now with the local prosecutor’s office.

ISU says both its conflict of interests and use of public funds policies were not followed, and thousands of dollars are unaccounted for.

In September of 2016 ISU began a review of the financial operations of the RISE (Research and Innovation in Science and Engineering) Complex. Most of their findings point to Dr. Eric Burgett, former director of the RISE Complex. Burgett was removed as director when the investigation began, and he resigned from the university the following day.

The investigation stretched back over a six-year period and concluded that Burgett misused thousands of dollars of university funds and performed private consulting, which caused a conflict of interest in violation of school policy.

“We had some weaknesses where we can do better in some areas and where we need to be vigilant when it comes to conflict of interests and disclosure of relationships,” said ISU’s Kent Tingey, vice president for university advancement.

The investigation also found Burgett had a previous relationship with a company called ScanTech, where he is now employed. ISU performed multiple research projects for ScanTech while Burgett ran the research center, but at the time of his dismissal the company had failed to pay for work completed to the tune of $628,000.

The review also found that Burgett performed private consulting for MD Anderson at the University of Texas while using ISU equipment and supplies, which wasn’t disclosed to or approved by management. He spent almost $16,000 of university funds for equipment, supplies and travel despite receiving reimbursement from MD Anderson and being paid for his travel by ISU, according to the investigation.

“What has been going on over the course of the last year demonstrates that we all take responsibility and we care what happens,” says Tingey, referring to ISU’s extensive investigation. “This was reviewed, actions were taken and actions may still be taken.”

ISU has taken its findings to the Bannock County Prosecutor’s Office, where charges could be filed. The university says it will use the incident as an opportunity its conflict of interest and private consulting policies throughout the school.

In a summary of its investigative report released by the school, administrators promise that “internal auditors will conduct a university-wide conflicts of interest audit. ISU has also instituted a conflicts of interest training for all faculty and staff that is to be completed by Dec. 31, 2017.”


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