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The Evergreen State College seeks missing money

Missing money sought OLYMPIA – The Evergreen State College wants to recover nearly $50,000 that an internal audit reported a professor collected from students for a study abroad program.

College officials may pursue recovering the money through the school’s insurance policy and are in discussions with an assistant state attorney general to see if it would be possible to recover the money from the professor, Jorge Gilbert, who teaches Latin American studies and economics.

“The college intends to pursue a just outcome for students according to state law,” college spokesman Jason Wettstein said.

Seeking recovery of the money was one of the recommendations made by the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which released a fraud report Thursday, that concluded that “the faculty member misappropriated at least $50,000 in public funds from the Academic Travel Program” between 2005 and 2008.

The faculty member was not named, but auditor’s office spokeswoman Mindy Chambers confirmed it was Gilbert.

Reached by phone Thursday, Gilbert declined to comment on the report, saying that he and his attorney had not read it.

Gilbert made a brief comment about the college’s internal audit, before saying that he and his attorney have been preparing a response.

“Most of what the internal auditor did was just on rumors,” he said.

The state auditor’s office reviewed Evergreen internal auditor Maryam Jacobs’ report released in February, which included the following conclusions:

 • Gilbert could not account for $50,000 that he collected from students for the travel abroad program from 2005 to 2008;

 • He signed contracts on behalf of Evergreen with a company that was connected to his family, which would be a violation of state ethics laws;

 • He bypassed the college’s accounting system by asking students to deposit travel money into a bank account for which he was the only signer, which would be a violation of state law and college policy.

The college’s investigation started after several students on the 2008 Chile program told the college that they never received airline tickets that Gilbert had purchased through a Bellevue travel agency that went out of business.

The college purchased replacement tickets for some of the students, and administrators began to investigate how student fees and tickets were handled for that program, according to documents released after a public records request from The Olympian.

Gilbert had been Chile’s honorary consul in this state for many years, though he turned in his resignation from that position several months ago, according to Andrea Lagos, press attache of the Chilean Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The college’s human resources department is reviewing the matter, following the procedures listed under the contract between the college and the United Faculty of Evergreen, which is the faculty’s union, Wettstein said.

Gilbert was not scheduled for classes in winter or spring of 2009, though he taught individual students.

Venice Buhain: 360-754-5445

vbuhain@theolympian.com

www.theolympian.com/edblog

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