December 24, 2006
The Maricopa County Community College District has placed the director of one of the system’s leading international programs on paid administrative leave over concerns that she misused taxpayer dollars.
Chancellor Rufus Glasper notified Pinny Sheoran late this week that he has ordered an investigation of her office at Mesa Community College to determine whether funds were misappropriated, said district spokeswoman Chris Chesrown. Sheoran is director of the Business and Industry Institute at MCC.
Records examined by a Valley newspaper raise questions over whether dollars intended to pay an outside consultant went for travel instead. It is also unclear whether Sheoran actually taught a class for which she received extra pay.
“Dr. Glasper had enough questions about how policy had been adhered to — or not adhered to — to immediately call for an investigation,” Chesrown said.
Sheoran declined to comment Saturday because she said her attorneys needed time to review any questions about the inquiry.
Since 2004, Sheoran has shepherded the institute through negotiations with various Chinese higher education agencies to design and manage their online courses.
Last summer, the MCCCD governing board gave the institute $2 million to develop a class for the China Medicine Education Association. More than a million Chinese nurses must pass that class to become certified, Sheoran said in an interview earlier this week.
The deal possibly could have produced hundreds of millions of dollars for the district but it has ignited a debate about whether community colleges should develop international partnerships.
During the past five years, the district has spent more than $300,000 on international travel. In October, Glasper froze international travel until an internal review could affirm whether the district should pursue such deals.
However, two weeks after the chancellor’s orders, MCC President Larry Christiansen approved Sheoran’s request for her and her staff to take a two-week trip to China to work with the medical association.
Despite his order, Glasper said he initially signed off on the trip but halted it Nov. 3 — the day the Tribune requested the institute’s travel records.
Chesrown said the district has asked various state agencies to conduct the institute investigation.
Already, MCCCD is in the midst of several probes launched after a Tribune investigation documented that fraud and other employee misconduct has gone largely unpunished.
On Friday, a Glasper e-mail notified the district’s 11,000 employees of the pending investigation and reassured them the other inquiries are progressing.