No charges sought in case of former dean, says attorney
After a four-month review of reports by the University of Arkansas System, the prosecuting attorney has decided not to prosecute a former UALR dean for alleged misuse of travel funds.
In a memo sent to the UALR Office of General Counsel Sept. 12, Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley stated that the office could not prove criminal intent by former College of Business Dean Anthony Chelte.
“After reviewing the information, we have determined that this matter may have been the result of a misunderstanding by Dr. Chelte of the University’s travel expense policy,” Jegley stated in the document.
According to the document, this decision concludes a review process by Jegley’s office that began when internal investigation and audit reports were submitted by the University of Arkansas System’s Office of General Counsel on May 7.
The Office of General Counsel’s Internal Audit Report showed that more than $15,300 worth of duplicate or otherwise unauthorized travel expenses were found during the investigation. In response to the findings, Chelte sent a letter of resignation to Chancellor Joel Anderson on April 21, which took effect April 30.
The report also recommended that the institution seek reimbursement for a total of $11,480.80 from Chelte. That recommendation was issued after the audit period, during which he reimbursed the university $3,850 of the initial total of $15,300. According to office administration, Chelte has reimbursed the university system in full since the reports were submitted to the prosecuting attorney more than four months ago.
“After we submitted the case to the Prosecuting Attorney for review, we made demand on Dr. Chelte to make full restitution of amounts we claimed that he owed UALR, and he did make full restitution,” said Senior Associate General Counsel Jeff Bell, to whom Jegley’s memo was addressed. “ As a result, UALR has been made whole. We respect and accept the Prosecutor’s decision to not pursue criminal charges against Dr. Chelte, although we stand behind the findings of our Internal Auditor. We consider the matter resolved and closed.”
According to the report that Bell submitted to Jegley on May 7, Chelte repaid the amount of $3,850 on Dec. 1, 2011. The report states that this reimbursement was for a trip he took to France in June 2010. It also states that was the day he was notified about the internal audit.
The report goes on to state that among Chelte’s unauthorized business travel were more trips to France and one to Hawaii, for which he had exchanged his airplane tickets to Germany, where he was going to teach at another university.
According to the UALR website, Chelte had been under investigation for misuse of university funds since Nov. 4, 2011, when some of his university coworkers reported allegations of “improper use of funds for personal travel and abuse of leave time regulations” to Interim Provost Sandra Robertson.
“Based on the audit findings, Chancellor Anderson and University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt requested that the UA General Counsel’s Office forward the reports to the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office for review,” according to UALR press release dated May 15.
According to Bell’s report to the prosecuting attorney, the audit also found that Chelte underreported his annual leave time from the university by 182 hours, “which, at his salary, has a value of $16,346.18.”
“The audit committee offered recommendations to UALR for strengthening internal controls regarding travel policy, agreements with foreign schools, international data plans, and use of signature stamps,” according to the May 15 UALR press release.