Robert Felner, a former dean of the college of education at Louisville, faced nine federal charges, including money laundering, mail fraud, and tax evasion. He agreed to pay more than $2 million in cash and property as part of a restitution deal.
The Felner case reflects poorly on the leadership of current UAB president Carol Garrison, according to a leading commentator on higher-education issues. Garrison had been provost at Louisville before taking the UAB position in 2002. And we have shown that UAB, under Garrison's administration, has some ugly ties to Governor Bob Riley's son, Homewood attorney Rob Riley.
Here is how the Louisville Courier-Journal describes the case that led to the Felner plea agreement:
The agreement comes close to ending a case that began in spring 2008, when the University of Louisville reported suspected fraud to federal officials. The investigation involved multiple federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service.
Following Friday's hearing, UofL spokesman Mark Hebert said, “Mr. Felner's guilty plea will prompt few tears on the University of Louisville campus.”
“An extraordinarily talented man has violated the trust of UofL administrators, faculty and staff and, perhaps most importantly, taxpayers. It's time for Mr. Felner to be held accountable for his criminal acts and we're glad that's happening,” he said. “This will close the book on Mr. Felner as far as we're concerned.”
It does not, however, close the book on a leadership style that led to the Felner case, according to Marc Bousquet of howtheuniversityworks.com. In fact, that leadership style simply has moved south to Birmingham, where former Louisville provost Carol Garrison now resides as president.
Here is what Bousquet wrote when Felner was indicted in 2008. It was part of his annual "Turkey at the Top Award," which goes to those who have exhibited poor leadership in higher education:
Turkey at the top is always intensely competitive. This year’s contenders included first runner-up Robert Felner, the U of Louisville dean indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering, and tax evasion in what the feds allege are repeated acts of embezzlement of grant monies amounting to over $2 million.
Crimes were not the only problem with Felner at Louisville. Writes Bousquet:
Not content with these escapades, Felner racked up 31 grievances and complaints in his 5 years at the “U of L” but was consistently backed against the faculty by upper administration, especially Provost Shirley Willihnganz and President James Ramsey, who spent extravagantly on lawyers and consultants to prop up his administration despite what numerous accounts (including this one and others that I’ve privately confirmed) termed an “onslaught” of complaints from faculty, staff and students alleging “unsavory behavior, ranging from sexual harassment to workplace intimidation.”
Let's digest that for a moment: There were more than 31 grievances and complaints against Felner--from faculty, staff, and students. The complaints ranged from charges of sexual harassment to workplace intimidation. And yet, the Louisville leadership tolerated that behavior.
According to Bousquet, the current president and provost were merely following a template that Carol Garrison helped create at Louisville:
This pair continued the authoritarian regime of wall-to-wall administrative solidarity and secrecy established by their high-living predecessors, former provost Carol Garrison and former president John Shumaker—later found sharing lavish hotel rooms and limousines at public expense, while jetting to trysts in the University of Tennessee’s private plane.
So what do we learn from Marc Bousquet? That Carol Garrison was part of a despotic, secretive regime that still is leaving repercussions at the University of Louisville. And as we have shown in repeated posts at Legal Schnauzer (see here and here), Garrison has established a similar regime at UAB.
It's interesting that the Felner case at Louisville only came to a head once federal investigators started looking at fraud. As we have shown in numerous posts (see here and here), fraud in various forms has reared its ugly head at UAB, both before and after Garrison's arrival.
Will Carol Garrison eventually meet the same fate as Robert Felner. If the Obama Justice Department were to train its sights on UAB, it probably would uncover fraud that makes the Felner case pale in comparison.
Some of the fraud almost certainly involves Rob Riley, son of Governor Bob Riley. And guess what? Rob Riley just happens to have close business ties to several UAB physician/faculty members--and federal court documents indicate they have been involved in some serious hanky-panky with federal Medicare dollars.
Carol Garrison, Bob Riley, and Rob Riley--that's quite a trio. Is the Obama Justice Department watching? You can rest assured that we are watching here at Legal Schnauzer--and much more reporting is coming on an unholy alliance that is built largely on fraud.
Much, much more is coming on Carol Garrison and her trysts with John Shumaker--at taxpayer expense.
Carol Garrison left fraud and sleaze in her wake at Louisville. It's still brewing at UAB.