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Audit: $1 million misused on UAlbany sabbaticals

ALBANY -- Professors and money both walked out the door of UAlbany and in some cases neither came back, according to a report by the New York State Comptroller.

According to Thomas DiNapoli`s office from 2007 to 2011 196 employees were granted a paid sabbatical costing the college $9.2 million. Another 43 employees were granted a paid leave totaling $1.6 million in cost. Not all those granted the time and money complied with the rules, the report states.

Of those who took a sabbatical 15 earned $396,581 of which the comptroller`s office calls "questionable spending". Those employees did not comply with SUNY or UAlbany policies, the report states.

Most of the employees in question did not fill out the proper accomplishment report SUNY policy mandates, said Director of State Audit Brian Mason.

"When you`re talking about limited state dollars and the amount faculty are getting paid for these types of leaves you have to get 100% compliance because there is too much money being invested," Mason said.

SUNY policy requires employees on sabbatical to be paid no more than 50 percent of their annual salary while away. Despite that the comptroller`s report shows in one case an employee was given full salary to leave, for a year, as a job incentive.

In another case an UAlbany employee went to a foreign country, found a job, and never returned to the college nor did they return the $38,082 given to them to go. The report also stated one person took $57,225 to leave even though they and the college knew the employee would not return.

"In this tight fiscal environment it (money) was not appropriately used," Mason said.

Officials at UAlbany argue the comptroller`s report saying the office is looking at perception instead of compliance. In an email Director of Media Relation, Karl Luntta, says the college remains in compliance with trustee and SUNY policy. 

"The issues raised in the OSC audit are primarily focused on OSC`s view of the policies themselves and not UAlbany`s compliance with the policies," Luntta wrote. "At no time were funds used inappropriately."

The comptroller`s office recommended to SUNY they implement clear policies to oversee the accountability of the paid leave. The issue was addressed with SUNY 22 years ago as well, the report states.