Against the backdrop of a criminal fraud investigation, an outside panel examining the Maricopa County Community College District is scheduled to prescribe fixes for the system today.
Proposals are expected to touch on several of the most important parts of how the district does business, from payroll to class enrollment.
The work has been done by a group of auditors and accountants from prominent local companies and government agencies. The group reviewed the findings of several internal audits and questioned district officials.
Panel members have expressed strong support for a no tolerance policy regarding fraud. Employees should “know if they’ve committed fraud, they (will) be fired,” Linda Blessing, the panel’s chairwoman and former director of the Arizona Board of Regents, said in November.
MCCCD Chancellor Rufus Glasper created the panel late last year in response to a Tribune series that detailed fraudulent activity throughout the nation’s largest junior college system. During the past five years, employee misconduct uncovered by district auditors went virtually unpunished and law enforcement was not notified when criminal activity surfaced.
At the panel’s meeting, it is scheduled to vote on what recommendations will be passed on to the district governing board on Friday. Glasper will offer his own, separate proposals to the elected officials.
“This is not the end of it,” said Chris Chesrown, a district spokeswoman.
Glasper has pledged the district will reform and restore public confidence.
The county sheriff’s office is investigating fraud and international travel at the district. In multiple raids, deputies seized a bevy of internal records and computer equipment.
Last week, the chancellor fired two longtime college presidents who are entangled in a controversy over taxpayerfunded trips to foreign countries. Glasper has refused to comment on the firings beyond saying he lost confidence in the officials.
The chancellor also has called on employees to refrain from commenting publicly.
In an e-mail to district employees in January, Glasper said he wants to ensure deputies receive accurate information and encouraged employees to cooperate with investigators. However, the chancellor also instructed employees to involve college attorneys before speaking with law enforcement “so that the district’s interests are protected.”
“We would also ask that you refrain from discussing with anyone, except the lawyers for the district, any facts of which you may be aware regarding the matters under investigation,” Glasper wrote. “Of course, this instruction does not apply to scheduled meetings with law enforcement investigating the matter at which district lawyers are present.”