ORANGEBURG -- South Carolina State University's board apparently discussed a scathing financial report behind closed doors, a move that would be illegal under the state's Freedom of Information Act law.
Trustee Maurice Washington said after the Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday that the group discussed the content of the report from financial consultant Elliott Davis, as well as a personnel issue related to it, in a closed-door session.
He referred questions on the discussion to board Chairman Jonathan Pinson.
Washington had asked during the meeting if the board would discuss the report, which found serious problems in the way the school manages grant money, and with its procedures for collecting outstanding student tuition and housing fees.
The Post and Courier last month obtained a copy of the report and posted it online.
Trustee Walt Tobin also referred questions on the discussion to Pinson.
Pinson said during the meeting that the board would discuss the report in an executive session, then later said it would only discuss a personnel issue related to it behind closed doors.
S.C. State spokeswoman Erica Prioleau-Taylor said Wednesday evening that Pinson would respond to a call from The Post and Courier to clarify what actually was discussed in the executive session. Pinson did not respond by press time.
Under the state's open records law, public bodies can discuss only limited and specific personnel issues behind closed doors.
Bill Rogers, director of the South Carolina Press Association, said under the law, a group can't discuss a financial report away from the public eye. The Elliott Davis report is a public document, he said.
At a board committee meeting earlier this month, some board members asked about the report, and when it would be available for review. The board voted late last year to hire a company to conduct the financial review, but hadn't yet received a copy of it.
University President George Cooper had a copy of the report.
Budget committee Chairman Robert Nance said board members would receive a copy before Wednesday's board meeting, and the group would discuss the report at that meeting. Board members, however, did not get a copy of the report prior to the meeting.
The 16-page report, which was dated June 14, included the following findings:
--$887,000 in expenditures were omitted from the university's 2009 Schedule of Federal Awards, $298,000 for the "Clyburn Project" and $589,000 for the "Lowman Hall Project."
--The university has not been reimbursed for three expenditures totaling $869,431 from the U.S. Department of Transportation because it could not provide sufficient documentation.
--The university has a "highly decentralized" grant administration process, which maintains grant information in many locations and makes it more likely the university will fail to comply with grant requirements.
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491.