DURHAM, NC -- A local Durham, NC television station is reporting today that two women accused of skimming money from a minority college fund at North Carolina Central University intend to fight the allegations.
Former provost Beverly Jones Washington and former director of the Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium, Nan Coleman, have hired lawyers.
The North Carolina Office of The State Auditor released a report Tuesday that accuses Colman of diverting $1 million in funds for the Universities Consortium project to a checking account for payments to herself and others.
The Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium was created in 1999 as a partnership between the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and 12 North Carolina historically minority institutions of higher education. It was intended to work on strategies to close the minority achievement gap in North Carolina with an emphasis on students from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The audit alleges Coleman and Jones Washington set up the program as a separate entity outside of North Carolina Central and that led to a lack of oversight from the university that allowed them to pocket some of the money meant to fund it.
"The former Executive Director received over $287,000 and the former Provost received nearly $62,000 from the diverted funds," says the audit.
Attorneys for both women say they have yet to be contacted by the District Attorney's Office regarding any potential criminal charges.
Attorney Butch Williams represents Beverly Jones Washington.
"We're going through the process of fully reviewing the report as written. We've noticed some items that are questionable, as related to Dr. Washington. We're preparing to respond to those items," he said.
"She has a 40-year career with NCCU and has always served in a proud fashion. We look forward, if necessary, to show her total character over this 40-year period," he continued.
Nan Coleman's attorneys declined to comment, saying they're also reviewing the NCCU audit.
The auditor's report says the General Assembly began funding the Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium in fiscal year 2001 and it received $3,586,400 in state appropriations through fiscal year 2010. It also got grants from private organizations, federal agencies, and state agencies.
In a news release in April, 2010, NC Central Chancellor Charlie Nelms said the program had taken in a total of about $13 million and he was asking for an outside investigation of alleged embezzlement by a former employee.
In a statement after the audit was made public Tuesday, Chancellor Nelms said he agrees with its findings and says he has "already taken decisive action to implement the necessary changes."
Nelms said the Consortium has been discontinued, the leaders responsible no longer work for NCCU, the suspect checking account has been frozen, and new policies have been put in place.
"A review of all NCCU accounts is under way to ensure their placement is consistent with the mission to serve the university," said Nelms in part.
"Personally and professionally, I am disappointed and dismayed regarding the alleged behavior of a few to the detriment of the university as a whole. However, I am confident that North Carolina Central University will emerge from this situation stronger and even more committed to excellence," Nelms continued.