University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. defended actions taken by the university in a meeting with faculty and staff Tuesday in response to audit findings released Monday by the University of Arkansas System.

University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Chancellor Lawrence A. Davis Jr. defended actions taken by the university in a meeting with faculty and staff Tuesday in response to audit findings released Monday by the University of Arkansas System.

Davis said that no wrongdoing had occurred despite the results of a multi-year investigation into allegations of waste and abuse related to the operations of the Harrold Dorm Complex and Living Learning Center.

Davis used a series of photographs projected onto a screen in the Hathaway-Howard Fine Arts Center auditorium to illustrate the conditions at the Harrold Complex, Lewis Hall and L. A. Davis Student Union both prior to and after their renovation during the 2007-2008 academic year. Davis said the conditions constituted a dire emergency and allowed him to override normal purchasing policy guidelines.

The photos graphically depicted unsanitary conditions that included dead vermin, clogged toilets and dirty shower stalls, as well as safety issues that included exposed wiring in student rooms.

“Nobody has mismanaged anything,” Davis said. “There is no money missing. It was spent on what you just looked at. We had six weeks to rehabilitate these dormitories.”

Davis defended Rita Ticey, her husband Rickey Ticey and daughter Desiree Ticey, who were fired in connection with the audit, as well as Rita Ticey’s sister Lucille Hayes, who was not fired. Rita Ticey was Davis’ assistant and also served as director of the Harrold Complex. Rita Ticey had a supervisory role over her husband and daughter. U of A System auditors determined that state nepotism laws and university policy were violated by the arrangement.

“The only mistake they made was doing what I asked them to do,” Davis said. “Mrs. Ticey’s sister was an expert janitorial person. She stripped floors with my approval.

“Nepotism policies can be overruled if the chancellor thinks that it needs to be done,” Davis said. “As for purchasing policies, they can be overruled if a situation is deemed a dire emergency and if you don’t think what you just saw in those pictures is a dire emergency, I don’t know what to tell you.”

Eugene Butler, director of public safety, was also fired on Feb. 21 along with the Ticeys. Their names were not released until Monday, along with the audit findings.

Butler admitted, according to the audit report, to allowing other employees to use his signature on employee time sheets.

The audit also found that time sheets were not signed by the supervisor responsible 85 percent of the time, but rather by other employees signing on as themselves or on behalf of the supervisor, representing $414,121 in payroll expenses during 2010 that were not processed correctly. Fifty-five percent of the time, the time sheets were not signed by the actual employee either, but by other employees on behalf of the employee, representing $275,971 in payroll expenses in 2010.

“Time sheets are a challenge but you can’t blame it all on one person,” Davis said.

In previous articles, U of A System officials have said the audit began in 2010 after tips to the system’s fraud hotline.

Arkansas State Police officials confirmed last week that a criminal investigation into alleged fraudulent activity related to the contents of the audit findings has been opened at the request of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

“The bottom line is nobody has stolen any money,” Davis said Tuesday. “No one has committed any crime. The only crime committed was leaving our students in that situation in those dorms as long as we did. No money is unaccounted for. No money is missing. Nobody stole anything.”

The U of A System audit findings include:

• $736,880 in payments related to payroll and purchasing orders did not go through the proper accounting channels and, because of that, could not be verified by auditors that they had been spent properly;

• $4,219 in funds went directly to Rita Ticey and she could not provide supporting documents for them, causing the state auditors to request the amount be reimbursed to the university;

• State nepotism laws and university policies were violated;

• Standard payroll and vendor procedures were generally disregarded;

• Payroll issues such as student workers who were overpaid or underpaid, students reporting working 12-hour days or work days without lunch breaks, student workers reporting long hours, including one who reported working 110 hours in one week, duplicate payroll payments to the same employee and other issues;

• And vendor payment issues such as payments made to vendors whose existence could not be verified by auditors, vendors paid differently for the same job, vendors selected without going through the proper competitive bid process, a payment made to the Athletic Department that Ticey could not explain and other issues.

The audit focused on periods of time in 2008, 2009 and 2010.