Last spring, Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hardee played a high profile role in Florida A&M University’s restructuring plan to save millions of dollars.
But even as the plan took shape, Hardee, who is also vice president for administrative and financial services, found herself getting some unwanted attention.
The FAMU Office of the General Counsel launched an investigation of Hardee for her alleged misuse of time and discrepancies in her annual leave.
Hardee has been working toward receiving her executive doctorate in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania. The two-year program requires the student to make monthly trips to the campus in Philadelphia to attend classes from Thursday to Saturday.
The Office of the General Counsel received an anonymous complaint against Hardee around April 18. “It is known that VP Teresa Hardee has been working on her Ph..D. at an out of town university, and to date, there has been no recorded leave for days absent. This is a blatant violation of university policies,” read the letter from the anonymous complainant.
The investigation focused on her “work-from-home-status” used on her Wednesday travel days.
“Ms. Hardee has not submitted any information that was responsive to confirm, document or verify how she performed university business while at home for a full work-day,” read General Counsel Avery McKnight’s June 2 memorandum sent to Karl White, FAMU Board of Trustees Audit Committee chairman.
Hardee denied any wrongdoing. She said she usually scheduled her flights to Philadelphia as late as possible to ensure she could take care of details before leaving.
“In fact, even while at the University of Pennsylvania on the days when I am officially off, I’m still working on FAMU business before and after class,” said Hardee, who has been at FAMU for more than four years.
This complaint is a new challenge for me. Throughout my career, my integrity has never been questioned,” said Hardee in an email. “The University has a duty to determine if there is any merit to allegations, whether they are attributed or not.”
In his memo to Trustee White, McKnight recommended that Hardee be suspended three days without pay and be docked more than 50 hours of annual leave. However, on Aug. 5, FAMU President James Ammons wrote Hardee informing her she would be docked 34.22 hours of annual leave; there was no reprimand.
Ammons later issued a statement praising Hardee’s hard work for the university.
In his investigation, McKnight also focused on the actions of Michael Boone, then-director of business process reengineering, and Hardee’s then-fiance. Boone traveled with Hardee to Philadelphia on six occasions and had the Thursday and Friday of those travels approved for annual leave. The only discrepancy was found in his Wednesday travel days.
“Mr. Boone, however did not obtain approval for annual leave for the Wednesday travel dates as appropriate [September 8, 2010, November 10, 2010, December 15, 2010, January 12, 2011, February 2, 2011, and May 4, 2011],” states the memorandum.
In response to the General Counsel’s request for information, Boone claims to have worked full days at FAMU on the Wednesdays in-question.
“On each of the dates except May 4, I purposefully booked our flights for the latest possible time so that I could work a full day at FAMU and not have to take time off for travel,” Boone said.
Of those travel days, May 4 was of particular importance. In response to the General Counsel’s request for information, Boone said he took almost 90 minutes of undocumented leave. “I worked through lunch and left FAMU at approximately 2:30 p.m.,” read part of his response. “My rationale for doing so was because I expected to have a conversation with Dr. O’ Duor regarding a possible allowance for some overtime that I have given in relation to my work at FAMU.”
The investigation alleged that Hardee and Boone spent FAMU business hours doing coursework. Boone said in his written response that he spent 40 minutes to two and a half hours on FAMU work-time to assist Hardee on her coursework.
Hardee received a non-disciplinary employment action and the human resources office reduced her annual leave. Boone was also docked annual leave. His position was terminated on June 30 because of the loss of stimulus funding, officials said.
As a result of the complaint and investigation, Hardee’s sister was transferred from the Division of Enterprise Information Technology, which falls under the CFO’s office.
Karl White could not be reached for comment.