UNC-Chapel Hill paid roughly $490,000 for a probe into the long-running academic fraud within the African and Afro-American Studies department, newly released records show.
They also show that since August, the university has been paying a public relations consultant $15,000 a month for expertise on managing the public response to the scandal.
University officials say none of the expenses were paid with taxpayer funds. They were covered by public money that comes from the UNC-CH Foundation, which raises money from donors to benefit the university and students.
The records were released after The News & Observer recently sent a list of public records requests from as far back as June that had gone fully or partially unanswered.
The probe was conducted by former Gov. Jim Martin and the Baker Tilly management consultant firm. Martin volunteered his services, while Baker Tilly was under contract. University officials said Baker Tilly received $488,192 for its work. The firm and Martin also received a total reimbursement of $5,250 in expenses.
Baker Tilly originally had been hired by the university in early August to analyze numerous reforms either proposed or put in place to deal with the scandal. At that point, the university was only aware of fraudulent classes and unauthorized grade changes going back to 2007, and had shown little indication it would look back further.
But a transcript for former football and basketball star Julius Peppers became public, showing that Peppers performed well in several African studies classes shown in later years to be fraudulent, while doing poorly in most other classes.
Shortly after, Chancellor Holden Thorp enlisted Martin, a chemistry professor from Davidson College and a former U.S. congressman, to lead a probe to determine how far back the scandal went.
Baker Tilly’s contract was amended to include assisting Martin.
The probe lasted about twice as long as expected and ultimately found that the bogus classes and unauthorized grade changes extended at least to 1997, though suspect classes exist as far back as 1994.
Parts of the report have not been well-received. Martin drew controversy for contending that athletic officials had raised concerns to the Faculty Committee on Athletics in 2002 and 2006 about classes within the African studies department. No documentation has emerged to support that contention, which was based on interviews with athletic officials and the then-NCAA faculty representative.
Several faculty members on the committees told The N&O that they had no recollection of such concerns, or that it never happened. They were not interviewed by Martin, and a Baker Tilly representative later said the finding was not correct.
Baker Tilly was paid an additional $90,000 for its analysis of university reforms, which it said would be a strong deterrent.
Also in August, Thorp hired Doug Sosnik, a consultant who was a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. The terms of the yearlong contract were for $15,000 a month, or $180,000 total, plus expenses.
Sosnik – a Duke graduate and Winston-Salem native – said in an interview Friday that it is not a full-time assignment and he visits the university every two or three weeks.
“I’ve put a lot of time on it,” he said. “I work for a lot of (other clients), and I’ve put more time on it than anything else.”