Martin: Trust, confidence need to be focus

Updated: November 18, 2004, 9:00 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- University of Colorado regent Jim Martin said Thursday the university must take swift, sure action to restore public trust after the disclosure of a critical audit of a fund-raising organization and a private football camp run by coach Gary Barnett.

"What's at stake here is the flagship university of this state and until trust and confidence becomes the focus then we're not addressing the real issue," said Martin, who withdrew from the race for re-election.

No other regent returned calls.

His comments came a day after the Rocky Mountain News published details of an audit report by Predovich & Company of Highlands Ranch that was presented to a statewide grand jury investigating allegations of wrongdoing in Colorado's football recruiting program.

The report concluded that the university, the CU Foundation, the school's private, nonprofit fund-raising arm, and Barnett's football camp failed to produce documents subpoenaed by Attorney General Ken Salazar's office.

It also questioned numerous unexplained transactions, including $780,000 in deposits to the Gary Barnett Football Technique School and $13,000 in tuition payments to the children of two assistant coaches.

The report also questioned the undocumented use of "large amounts" of money labeled "petty cash."

Colorado president Elizabeth Hoffman and Boulder campus Chancellor Richard Byyny said Wednesday university officials had never seen the report, and said they believe Colorado cooperated fully with the investigation. They said internal financial controls at the university and the CU Foundation are adequate, but ordered additional audits.

CU Foundation Chairman George Sissel said an internal audit found only seven minor errors among a large volume of transactions worth millions of dollars.

Hoffman and Byyny also said Barnett and his football school have agreed to an independent audit of all transactions involving the school and an organization it started that also was cited in the Predovich report.

Martin questioned whether internal audits would be enough to restore the university's public image.

"I don't think self-auditing or no personnel changes will address the issue of trust or confidence," Martin said. "I have the utmost confidence in the leadership of Elizabeth Hoffman, but she needs to sit down with ranking legislators and the state auditor and attorney general's office. We need to stop the hemorrhage."

University spokeswoman Michele Ames did not return a call Thursday.

Gov. Bill Owens might soon begin to look for a sponsor for a bill to be introduced in the Legislature next year to open the records of the CU Foundation to public review.

"One thing the governor has been concerned about over the years has been the anonymous nature of the CU Foundation," said spokesman Dan Hopkins.

Sen. Ron Tupa, D-Boulder, introduced a bill in 2000 that would have opened those records to public inspection, but it was killed in its first hearing. He and other legislative leaders said they would talk with university leaders before deciding whether to try again next year.

"The good thing about opening up some of these records is if there's any questionable expenditures or records, it would at least minimize that kind of thing occurring and you'd be able to track it," Tupa said.

The grand jury investigation and other investigations were prompted by two federal lawsuits filed against the university by women who claimed they were raped by football players or recruits at a Dec. 7, 2001 off-campus party. The lawsuits accuse the university of fostering an atmosphere that failed to discourage sexual assault and harassment, depriving the women of equal educational opportunities. A regent appointed panel in May said sex and booze were used to entice football recruits to Boulder, without the university's knowledge.

No criminal charges were filed in any of the alleged sexual assaults, but the grand jury indicted former recruiting aide Nathan Maxcey for allegedly hiring a prostitute and using his university-issued cell phone to call prostitutes.

Maxcey has denied any wrongdoing.

Barnett was suspended for three months early this year after making disparaging comments about Katie Hnida, a former placekicker who alleged she was raped by a teammate.

He told the Rocky Mountain News that while accounting methods at his football camps might be "primitive," there was no wrongdoing.

"It's my money," Barnett said. "I can do whatever the heck I want with it."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press