AU Board of Trustees investigates Ladner's spending

The Board of Trustees will be the only group privy to the results of its investigation into President Benjamin Ladner's alleged use of university money for personal expenses, including a personal French chef, presents for his children and other personal expenses, unless the board chooses to release the information to the public, according to David Taylor, Ladner's chief of staff.

"The actual report and the findings at this time will be confined for board review and board discussion," Taylor said in an interview Thursday. He said he doesn't know when the investigation will conclude or what actions the board might take as a result.

"I don't have a finish line or an end date for [the investigation], other than to say they would like to get it done as soon as possible," Taylor said. The timeline of the review may become clearer in the coming weeks, he said.

After several board members received an anonymous letter alerting them about Ladner's spending, they hired outside lawyers and auditors to "review questions surrounding certain expenses in one department of the university," according to a message from Taylor in the AU community-wide TodayAtAU e-newsletter.

Taylor said he didn't know what made the letter credible enough to compel the board to hire lawyers and auditors to look into the note's claims. He hasn't seen the letter, he said.

Two members of Student Government also received the letter. SG President Kyle Taylor's letter was mailed and addressed to the president of Student Government. Student Advocacy Center Director Ben Turner's was in an unmarked envelope slid under the SAC office door.

Neither letter addressed Kyle Taylor or Turner by name, and each was typed and signed "An Employee," Taylor said. The letters arrived a few days before the first of two Washington Post articles on the investigation was published on July 30.

The Post received a letter similar to the one sent to board members and student government officials, according to an August 3 article. Taylor said the Post published most of the contents of the letter, and he doesn't know much more about the investigation than what the article reported.

Turner declined to comment.

The specifics of Ladner's expenses are not in the annual budget reports the university releases, according to SG Comptroller Zach Ulrich, a former vice chair of the General Assembly's University Budget Review Committee.

"There was nothing in [the annual budget report] that would be able to tell you how big his expense account was," how much Ladner spent or on what he spent it, Ulrich said. He said he could not estimate the amount of the president's account.

The SG has no opinion on the outcome of the investigation yet, but Taylor said the organization will take a stand once the auditors conclude their review.

"We will respond accordingly, and we're not going to be scared in any way and we're not going to pander to [Ladner] in any way," he said.

Investigators have not contacted members of the SG, said Secretary Joe Vidulich.

Taylor said the probe will probably overshadow the other items on the SG's agenda.

"It's a shame that this has to take precedence over advocating students, getting extended hours to the Student Health Center" and other issues the SG hopes to pursue, Taylor said.

Provost Neil Kerwin said he had no comment except that he doesn't think news of the investigation is negatively affecting interest in the school from perspective students.

"Yesterday's freshman preview day had the largest number of advance registrations of any preview day in my memory," said Kerwin, who has been a part of the faculty since 1975, on Aug. 8. "That's the one piece of empirical evidence I have, and that evidence is positive."

The SG released a statement Aug. 5 saying it "eagerly awaits the findings of this investigation."

"The Student Government wholeheartedly supports the Board of Trustees investigation into this matter and will cooperate in any way possible," according to the announcement.

The president and the more than half of the board contacted by the Post declined to comment.

Ladner arrived in 1994 as the fifth president in less than five years. He makes the second-highest salary among DC area private university presidents, The Eagle previously reported. Ladner's base salary was $633,000 for 2003-04, according to the Post.

Check back with for updates on this developing story.

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