UNC audit: Kupec misspent $17,000

Tami Hansbrough was on most of ‘questioned’ trips by ex-fundraiser

acurliss@newsobserver.comOctober 24, 2012 

  • Traveling together A university audit report and other records obtained by The News & Observer show personal travel by former chief fundraiser Matt Kupec with his girlfriend, Tami Hansbrough, that was personal but paid by the university foundation. Here are details of the costs and locations of some trips: •  $2,180 on airfare and a rental car for a trip Kupec and Hansbrough took to Nags Head over the Fourth of July in 2010. •  $2,411 on airfare and pilot expenses for a trip they took to Louisville, Ky., in Dec. 2010 that coincided with a Notre Dame vs. Kentucky basketball game. •  $2,314 on airfare and ground transportation to New York in January 2011 while Notre Dame played St. John’s University at Madison Square Garden. $1,254 on airfare and ground transportation to Morgantown, W.Va., in Feb. 2011 while Notre Dame played West Virginia University. •  $2,676 for a portion of airfare, meals and lodging in New York during the Big East Conference basketball tournament in March 2011. •  $980 on a trip in March 2011 to Charlotte while Tyler Hansbrough’s NBA team, the Indiana Pacers, played the Charlotte Bobcats. •  $1,911 in spending on airfare and ground transportation for three separate trips to South Bend, Ind., in 2011.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s former chief fundraiser spent $17,000 in university money on personal trips, many with the mother of former basketball star Tyler Hansbrough, according to an internal university audit released on Tuesday and other records.

Matt Kupec was forced to resign last month from his $349,000-a-year job as questions mounted about the travel, usually with his girlfriend, Tami Hansbrough.

On Tuesday, Kupec apologized in a statement for “my lapse in judgment” and a lawyer he hired said the former UNC quarterback “hopes to put this behind him.”

Wade Smith, a Raleigh lawyer, said that Kupec is not aware of any criminal investigation but acknowledged it is a possibility.

“We will address that as necessary,” Smith said. “He was just an amazing engine for fundraising at a time when it was really needed. But for these failings, he is deeply sorry and he has repaid the money.”

The State Bureau of Investigation has made contact with lawyers for UNC about the travel, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed Tuesday.

Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said university officials would trigger a review if they notified authorities of the misuse of money, much like any other embezzlement or misappropriation case involving an employer. Woodall said that as of Tuesday, that had not happened.

The audit report says Kupec took multiple trips over a 32-month period ending in May “for which a sufficient business purpose could not be established and which were not reimbursed at the time the expenses were incurred.”

The university’s foundation, which is funded with private donations, covered the bills for state and commercial planes, ground transportation, meals and some lodging, according to the report and other documents obtained by The News & Observer. A total of 13 trips were identified in the report as being “questioned.”

Records show that many of Kupec’s trips were taken with Hansbrough. Their travel coincided with basketball games for her son, Ben, who was a star player at Notre Dame in 2010-11.

Some of those trips were on university-affiliated Medical Air planes, while others were on commercial flights.

The two-page audit report with a one-page attachment provides only broad, basic information about the nature of the spending by Kupec.

The questioned costs included $1,134 in “meals not tied to (a) business purpose,” according to the report. It lists a range of questioned trips to New York, Kentucky and across North Carolina as well as three separate trips to South Bend, Ind., in 2011.

The audit also lists $1,330 in questioned spending on a trip to New Orleans in March 2010. It is unclear whether Hansbrough went on that trip.

Kupec said in his statement that Hansbrough was not aware that the bills for their “personal charges” for those trips were being covered by the university foundation.

Hansbrough said in a statement from her lawyer, Joseph B. Cheshire V of Raleigh, that she was wrongly forced to resign by the university before all the facts were known. Hansbrough was a major gifts officer for the university, earning $95,000 a year.

She said she wants an official apology from the university “so that my reputation and future can begin to be repaired and we all can move forward.”

Chancellor Holden Thorp could not be reached. Asked if UNC-Chapel Hill would apologize, a spokeswoman said in an email: “the University does not intend to respond.”

Both Kupec and Hansbrough resigned last month. Phyllis C. Petree, UNC-CH director of internal audit, said Tuesday that the money, $16,973.10, was withheld from Kupec’s final paycheck.

Thorp had stopped Kupec from directly hiring Hansbrough at one point because the two had been in a dating relationship, but he allowed Kupec’s department to fund a job for her in another department. Shortly after the news of the travel broke, Thorp announced his resignation.

The university has since put in place a policy that requires the chancellor or his designee to review the expenses of the university’s top fundraiser, known as the vice chancellor for university advancement.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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