OVERSIGHT TRAINING NEEDED FOR HIGHER ED TRUSTEES, IG SAYS
By Chris Lisinski
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JUNE 11, 2019.....Pointing to school funds a former Westfield State University president allegedly misspent, Inspector General Glenn Cunha urged lawmakers Tuesday to back his legislation that would mandate oversight training for all public higher education trustees.
Inspector General Glenn Cunha stressed that public college executives must be answerable to their schools' boards. [Photo: Sam Doran/SHNS]
Cunha, who filed a similar bill in the two previous sessions, said a statutory requirement that all public college and university board members receive extensive and recurring education on financial practices, public records and more could save taxpayer dollars by preventing fraud.
His office found in 2014 that former WSU President Evan Dobelle had "misused hundreds of thousands of dollars" on personal purchases and international travel but the school's board members were "unaware" they had the ability to question his conduct, Cunha told the Joint Committee on Higher Education.
"That isn't what's supposed to happen," Cunha said. "The president, the executive, reports to the board."
His bill (H 8) would mandate that all 29 public colleges and universities in Massachusetts subject board members to training on open meeting law, procurement practices, fraud prevention, fiduciary responsibilities and conflicts of interest.
Cunha's office began running similar training programs in the wake of the Dobelle investigation, but because those sessions are voluntary, he estimated Tuesday that he is only able to work with "30 to 40" school trustees every year out of the 250-plus across the state, many of whom are "repeat customers."
"It's usually the people who don't think they need training who need training," he said.
Last year, Cunha also pointed to the Westfield case in testimony on Beacon Hill when he requested a $428,000 increase in funding to his office to expand trainings for various state commissions and boards beyond education.
The bill he advocated for Tuesday, though, carries no such price tag with it.
"This is a zero-cost item, and it can quite possibly save millions of dollars in state colleges and universities," he said.
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