Legislative Auditor: LSU Improperly Paid Researcher $400,000

Louisiana State Capitol Building / Wikimedia Commons
Louisiana State Capitol Building / Wikimedia Commons

The LSU School of Veterinary Medicine may have paid a faculty member more than $400,000 even though the researcher didn’t work for the school for more than three years, according to a report issued by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office.

The auditor also highlighted possible conflicts of interest at the University Laboratory School and compliance issues at the AgCenter and Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The Veterinary Medicine faculty member admitted not working for LSU in 2017 and 2018, and an internal audit found the person didn’t work for part of 2015 and all of 2016, according to the school’s dean. Disciplinary action has been initiated against the researcher and their supervisor has been replaced with an interim chairperson.

A review is under way to determine if there are other research-only positions and to examine the duties and oversight of those roles, LSU says.

An internal audit by LSU alleges two University Laboratory School administrators started a private company that would have accepted student payments for an after-school program, the Legislative Auditor’s report shows. The two principals started the company after being denied pay increases for their after-hours duties, the auditor’s office says.

Frank Rusciano, secondary principal at the lab school, also is accused of using school resources to benefit his wife’s business and accepting free trips and accommodations from a travel agency that arranges the school’s annual trip to Washington, D.C., actions the auditor says create at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

"Personnel actions" are under way involving both administrators, school officials say.

The LSU Agcenter has failed to ensure compliance with certain federal requirements, including rules related to federal Research and Development Cluster awards, the auditor says. Pennington has not done enough to ensure federal rules regarding financial reports and equipment management are followed, the report says. Officials at both campuses say they are tweaking their processes to address the issues.

Over the past five fiscal years, LSU system expenses have increased by 10.2 percent while state appropriations have remained about the same, increasing 0.39 percent, the auditor says. Over that same period, tuition and fees have increased by 25.6 percent, the report says, noting that the 2010 GRAD Act allows for the tuition hikes. Total enrollment for LSU campuses has increased by 10.5 percent since 2014.