UVM admin. resigns after policy violations

J. Michael Gower, UVM’s Vice President for Finance and Administration, resigned last Thursday after it came to light that the University had entered into contracts under his supervision which did not follow internal policy and procedures. The news of his resignation was e-mailed to members of the UVM community Thursday evening, following an e-mail from UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel which addressed the recently discovered break from procedures. The internal controls were broken down when UVM entered into multiple contracts with Huron Consulting Group in 2006 in order to address problems with the implementation of the new PeopleSoft management information system, according to Fogel’s letter. In his letter, Fogel said that the con?tracts were not approved by the Board of Trustees or the President and all contracts in excess of $250,000 must be. The total cost of all nine contracts with Huron is expected to exceed $5 million. Gower was not mentioned in Fogel’s letter, but UVM officials said that the implementation of PeopleSoft was within Gower’s responsibility. In Gower’s letter of resignation, he cited “difficult struggles” in his time at UVM, notably the “frustrating implementation of a comprehensive data management system… There were escalating costs, implementation obstacles and communication problems.” In an interview with The Cynic, Fogel said that the University takes the breach in procedures “very seriously,” and that they are “determined to carry through a full investigation.” Part of that investigation will require the services of “independent experts to examine this situation fully,” said Fogel in his letter. Until the independent investigation is complete, it will be difficult to determine exactly what went wrong with UVM’s internal policy and procedures, and why the contracts with Huron were not brought before the Board and the President for approval, Fogel said. However, President Fogel did comment on the contracts themselves and their sources of funding during an interview, saying that he was unaware of the extent of the contracts and the funding until they were brought to the attention of the administration by an employee.According to Fogel, the funding for the contracts came from earnings on capital gains which were put aside into a fund of which he personally was unaware. All reports of the work that Huron Consulting was doing were formerly sent to Gower, and the administration has requested a status update on the progress of Huron’s work. Fogel acknowledged in his letter that the work being done by Huron is “effective and productive work on a mission-critical project.” He later said that the contract with Huron will be kept, despite the breach in procedures, and their work will continue. “Given the fact that we needed to spend the money to get it right, my assumption is that the expenditures were mission important,” Fogel said of the contracts with Huron. Gower’s resignation was accepted by Fogel Thursday, and will be effective on June 30. His responsibilities will be taken over by Tom Gustafson, Vice President of Student and Campus Life, and Ted Winfield, Associate Vice President for Finance and Administration. “Mike was a valued colleague,” said Gustafson, who also said he is still uncertain about exactly what duties of Gower’s he will be taking on. In accepting Gower’s resignation, Fogel praised him for the work he has completed at the University.”Much has been accomplished in Mike Gower’s leadership,” Fogel said. Gower, who has been the Vice President of Finances and Administration since 2003, declined comment.