The former head of a state research center at Buffalo State College misused more than $130,000 in research funds for extensive foreign travel, lavish dinners and hotels, and personal electronics, according to a draft of a state audit obtained by The Buffalo News.
Auditors from the State Comptroller’s Office took aim at questionable practices and abuses at the State University of New York Research Foundation and its locations around the state, including the one at Buffalo State under former operations manager Edgar H. “Ted” Turkle III.
Turkle, 70, is accused of using his corporate credit card to charge $130,887 for such questionable items “as foreign travel, high-end dining and hotels, and personal items such as a laptop computer, an iPad, iPhones and groceries.”
“His actions violated policy and resulted in his personal enrichment at the expense of the Research Foundation,” the report said.
Turkle – an employee of the Research Foundation, not Buffalo State – was placed on leave soon after the audit was started late last year. He was fired from his job in February. He could not be reached to comment Tuesday.
The matter has been referred to the district attorney in Albany, where the Research Foundation has its central office.
Buffalo State officials stressed Tuesday that the money in question came from the Research Foundation, not the school.
Also, Buffalo State President Aaron Podolefsky released this statement:
“It is clear that serious errors of judgment were made by a former Research Foundation employee in the handling of RF expenditures. Upon learning of these inappropriate and unethical actions, the RF employee in question was terminated, and Buffalo State took immediate action to assume direct oversight of RF operations on campus…
The findings at the Buffalo State location were part of a larger audit of the Research Foundation expected to be released by the Comptroller’s Office today or later this week. Other findings include: the Research Foundation’s central office compensating a former general counsel with more than $665,356 in pay and severance for less than a year of service, and paying $3 million for 10 contracts identified as a potential conflict of interest, and the chancellor’s account charging $27,968 for items that “may appear personal in nature.”
The audit also reviewed 424 of Turkle’s corporate credit card transactions for the period between November 2007 and November 2011 and found that “348 purchases totaling $130,887 were not adequately supported as being business-related.”
Turkle accompanied Buffalo State faculty during travel to foreign countries in 29 out of the 48 months reviewed, primarily to countries in Asia, without including detailed itineraries or agendas, according to the draft audit.
“Turkle also charged the Research Foundation $22,225 for Buffalo Sabres hockey tickets [which he admitted were his personal season tickets] and other personal items, such as a birthday celebration for his wife, an Apple laptop computer, an iPad, iPhones, Godiva chocolates and groceries,” the report stated. “These purchases clearly benefited only Mr. Turkle.”