SAN MARCOS — On the eve of California State University, San Marcos’ audit on executive officials misappropriating university funds, the university severed ties with two officials in spotlight of review.
CSUSM and the California State University Chancellor’s Office each released their own independent internal reviews on Feb. 13 of business spending of Michael Schroder, the former dean of extended learning and associate vice president for international programs. According to an investigation last year by The San Diego Union Tribune, Schroder exceeded university spending caps when staying at Ritz-Carlton hotels, upgraded airfare to business or first class, and bought $50 steak dinners at Vigilucci’s Seafood Steakhouse in Carlsbad.
“We substantiated all of the allegations,” the chancellor’s 28-page independent report stated. “We also found that the dean sought and received reimbursement for expenses that were personal in nature under the guise of university business.”
The university announced that Michael Schroder and his wife Beth Schroder, the senior director of philanthropy, were no longer employed as of Feb. 12.
CSUSM President Ellen Neufeldt stated on the release of the university’s independent report that, “the independent investigation by the Chancellor’s Office revealed that a member of our community took advantage of their position and influence to fraudulently use university resources to their personal benefit.
“Upon reading the report, I was in disbelief that someone would violate the sacred trust placed upon leaders of this university to such a degree,” she continued.
Neufeldt received the complaint of Schroder’s spending during her first month at the university last summer where she began an internal investigation and requested an independent investigation from the Audit and Advisory Services of the Chancellor’s Office.
In the university’s eight-page comprehensive review of travel expenditures, 27 of the reviewed 253 transactions were found to be in violation of university policy.
These policy violations were found in lodging costs, upgraded airline seats and executive car services where more economical choices could have been made. The review also found duplicate travel reimbursements and as a result overpayment of said reimbursements.
The chancellor’s report echoed the university’s findings and found that Schroder fraudulently requested duplicate reimbursements by claiming a meal under both a travel expense and a hospitality expense.
The report also found that Schroder requested reimbursement of expenses totaling $36,675, of which 33 of the 182 expenditures reviewed were found to be fraudulent.
“Examples of these expenses include trips to a concert and professional football and baseball games, as well as a cross-country road trip, all taken with family and friends,” the report said.
Schroder used university funds to see a National Football League game and a Guns n’ Roses concert in Philadelphia in October 2017 under the guise of reviewing an educational program at the University of Pennsylvania. The cross-country road trip occurred a few months prior from Virginia to California where Schroder could not verify the nature of this trip and the reimbursement for it from the university.
Neufeldt has directed the university to create fiscal stewardship actions based off the recommendations from both reports to prevent future abuse of university funds.
“Actions speak louder than words, so we are going to show through our deeds that we want to earn the trust of our students, our families, our faculty and staff and our community,” Neufeldt said.