Memo to John Drescher: I hereby propose that yall send me to investigate the relative alcohol content of piña coladas at various resorts in Cancun vis-à-vis their counterparts in Myrtle Beach. Concurrently, I propose to study how long one must stay submerged in each resorts Jacuzzi before your skin starts to wrinkle.
Hey, it worked for Stacy Nelson, the N.C. State University associate professor who took his family on trips to the beach on the universitys dime, ostensibly to study submerged aquatic vegetation.
Yup. Thats plants growing underwater.
Upon further review, it didnt work for Nelson, who works in the universitys Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources. After all, had the ruse worked, we wouldnt be writing and reading about the state audit that determined that Nelsons so-called work trip to the beach in July and August 2011 was likely an excuse for a grant-funded vacation at expensive Outer Banks resorts.
Also, had it worked, he wouldnt be fixing to fish in his pockets for $3,359 to reimburse the school.
Auditor Beth Woods spokesman, Dennis Patterson, told me he couldnt determine the specific days Nelson took his questionable trips, but even so, we know one thing: It was hot. And on the weekend.
July 2011 was the hottest on record in the state, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, with an average daily temperature of 93 degrees. If that doesnt make you feel like throwing the kids into the Woody and taking a jaunt to the beach to study some submerged aquatic vegetation that summer, what would?
As reported in a story last week, the Family Nelson eschewed the low-class motels in favor of The Sanderling Resort and Spa in Duck nearly $600 a night for three nights and others that were close to $400 a night. According to our story, Nelson told auditors he chose the hotels because of their proximity to the work site.
Oh, you mean the beach.
The high cost may have proved to be his Waterloo since the price of a suite at the Wing Wang Motel or its nominally more upscale sister resort, the Rock Em Sock Em Motor Lodge where they dont leave a chocolate on your pillow, but a half-eaten Zagnut bar wouldnt have set off alarm bells.
To his credit, Nelson admitted to auditors that he didnt take notes of his findings, which is a violation of university policy. Me? Id have exclaimed, Jaws et my notes. Snatched em right outta my hands!
Oh, so Im the only one, huh?
Nelson has now been duly chastened. So has, Im guessing, every other professor who was thinking about using some grant money to take Sweet Thang to the Angus Barn to study the gustatory effects of sustained flames on the side of Grade A Sirloin and its subsequent impact when mixed with mashed taters inside ones belly.
Such deterrent value is lost on critics who see only that a $35,000 audit netted less than $4,000 in misspent grant money. When you think, however, of the professors and researchers who wont be taking questionable trips lest they end up enduring the same level of scrutiny as their colleague then the savings are immeasurable.
So, instead of reviling Nelson and suggesting that he turn in his state-issued pocket protector, we should be hoisting a piña colada to him for helping to save the university money.
Thats exactly what I plan to do when I get to Cancun.
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