Audit says WWU administrator used funds improperly

BELLINGHAM - A Western Washington University administrator did not follow state rules on travel, according to the state Auditor's Office.

Doug Nord, the former director of the Center for International Studies at WWU, was investigated by the auditor's office for the amount of time he spent traveling, and the purposes behind the trips, between December 2007 and June 2009. During that period, Nord took 22 trips and charged WWU about $38,755 in travel expenses.

According to the report, the investigation resulted in "reasonable cause to believe improper governmental action occurred."

The investigation was prompted by a whistleblower report in June 2009. The final Whistleblower Investigation Report was released Monday, Sept. 13.

Nord is still employed by WWU. He voluntarily resigned from his position as the center's director and is on temporary reassignment with the provost's office, assisting in applying for external grants, said Paul Cocke, director of university communications.

Cocke couldn't comment on whether Nord will be required to pay back any of the money or if his employment will be affected in the future, saying that's confidential personnel information.

Nord could not be reached for comment.

Nord started working at WWU in December 2007 as the center's director and received a salary of $105,000 each year. From January 2008 through July 2009, he was also the university's interim executive director of Extended Education and Summer Programs. He did not receive a pay raise for the second full-time administrative position, according to the investigation report. Nord's current salary is $81,900.

During the period examined, the auditor's office found that Nord took several trips both inside and outside the United States, including a couple trips to Sweden to discuss a student and faculty exchange agreement, a few trips to San Diego to plan a conference, seven trips to British Columbia for various reasons, and a trip to east Asia to discuss exchanges.

The auditor's office questioned the necessity of some of Nord's submitted expenses, including overnight lodging in British Columbia, parking charges at Bellingham International Airport and traveling to San Diego multiple times to plan the Association for Canadian Studies in the United States' 2009 annual conference.

The auditor's office also found inconsistencies in the dates Nord said he traveled, dates for conferences he said he attended, and locations he said he stayed overnight.

While the investigation found evidence of "improper governmental action," there was no evidence of fraud, Cocke said.

The state report is the second investigation into Nord's traveling practices at WWU. An internal WWU audit released in January 2009 found that from Dec. 1, 2007, through October 2008, Nord was away from campus about 48 percent of the time, or 109 days, and didn't submit leave slips for any of it.

The internal review found Nord was gone 56 days for university-approved travel, 22 days for research performed off-campus, 13 days planning for a conference, 11 days to move from Ohio to Bellingham, four days to attend a conference and a few days for other unspecified reasons.

Nord didn't submit leave slips for any of the above absences because he considered himself a faculty member and therefore didn't need to, according to the internal audit. But, Nord was an administrative employee at the time and should have accrued leave and followed the university's leave policy.

The Auditor's Office investigation found evidence that Nord knew he was an administrator, including his offer letter from WWU which states he was being offered a "senior administrative appointment."

An internal audit done in July 2005 by Wright State University, Nord's employer before WWU, showed similar travel practices and requested Nord reimburse the university $13,787. Nord resigned from his position as executive director for that university's Center for International Education in January 2006 and reimbursed the university, according to the auditor's office investigation report.

Cocke couldn't comment on why Nord was hired by WWU after the Wright State University audit, citing personnel confidentiality.