Professor misused campus resources, records show
A Western professor used university resources for personal benefit and outside compensated activities, Western’s Internal Audit Office found in a special investigation.
Assistant Director of Western’s Spatial Institute Stefan Freelan and faculty member Tyson Waldo taught training courses for the online mapping tool ArcGIS through the nonprofit Northwest Environmental Training Center in a Western computer lab without obtaining the proper approval to use university resources, according to an investigation report released late last year.
According to the report, because of a provision in The Ethics in Public Service Act, Freelan was able to serve as an employee of NWETC and the university simultaneously but was not able to facilitate or participate in NWETC activities while on Western’s campus.
The use of state resources for personal gain is against state law and university policy.
The report also details the findings of over 5,000 emails and documents pertaining to outside compensated activities by both Freelan and Waldo on Western’s computers.
The report found Freelan to be using Western’s computers to store over 5,000 personal documents as well, including map data of Freelan’s sailing trip in the San Juan Islands, files related to the remodeling of his home and a map for a friend’s wedding program, which was created during five work days.
Western has no more than two investigations performed by the internal audit office per year, Communications Director Paul Cocke said.
A settlement was approved May 13, 2016 between Freelan and the Washington State Executive Ethics Board that required Freelan to pay a civil penalty of $6,000. This was reduced to $3,000 on the condition that Freelan agreed to all orders of the stipulation including taking responsibility for violations of The Ethics in Public Service Act and complying to no further violations of the act for two years after the settlement approval date.
Freelan’s investigation was the first investigation to have received a penalty from the Washington State Executive Ethics Board since 2002 when a Western employee used resources to send email regarding a political campaign, according to the Washington State Executive Ethics Board website.
Over the course of the two-month investigation, Western auditors accessed Waldo and Freelan’s computer equipment, email records and electronic data. Auditors interviewed the two professors as well as personnel in Western’s Huxley College of the Environment, Space Administration, Contract Administration and the Academic Budgeting Office.
Upon further investigation, the auditors found training courses for the online mapping tool ArcGIS. The courses were set for December 2015 and March 2016 and the instructors listed were Waldo and Freelan.
Freelan was found in the investigation to have initiated and facilitated two personally beneficial contracts between the NWETC and the university. These contracts were the training courses for NWETC performed in Western computer labs.
The internal audit office recommended the Dean’s Office of Huxley work with Western’s human resources to determine the monetary amount Freelan should repay and the amount of timekeeping leave he should report to the university for his “on-the-clock” outside compensated activities.
The Dean of Huxley College, along with the Assistant Vice President for Human Resources, determined there was no need for repayment and any timekeeping violations occurred before 2011 when Freelan became aware his actions violated policy, according to the investigation report.
Freelan also was required to complete the human resources Ethics Test and was given a last chance agreement stating that immediate termination would follow any further violation of ethics or university policy regarding ethics.