The City University of New York has asked for a state investigation following the departure of the president of City College once known as “the poor man’s Harvard” in Harlem, New York.
The Wall Street Journal reports that CUNY board chairman William Thompson Jr. has sent a letter to New York’s inspector general.
Lisa Coico resigned Friday after university officials were approached by the New York Times regarding more than $150,000 that was directed toward personal expenses, as costs for students rise.
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The NY Times reports that:
- Ms. Coico, who had an annual salary of $400,000, was using the college’s main fund-raising vehicle, the 21st Century Foundation, to pay tens of thousands of dollars for housekeeping, furniture, seasonal fruits and organic maple-glazed nuts, among other items.
- She had a housing allowance of $5,000 per month when she was hired, which was increased to $7,500 per month in July 2010.
- Ms. Coico spent $20,000 security deposit for a rental home, or kept the money for herself.
- She was also informed that any furniture bought with foundation funds — including $50,000 worth for a rental home in Larchmont, N.Y. — belonged to City College.
According to CUNY, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn has been investigating whether Coico misused funds from a nonprofit affiliated with the university.
Coico was told by a lawyer for the university to return funds taken from 21st Century Foundation, according to Thompson’s letter. The college later “discovered that in fact she did not return all the funds, despite her representations to the contrary,” Thompson said.
Coico has denied wrongdoing.
Thompson wants the state review to include CUNY’s use of foundations. He says each school has its own foundation, a “very broad” definition of eligible expenses, and “very few apparent controls.”
“This matter raises concerns with respect to the relationships not only between City College and its affiliated foundation but more generally between all CUNY colleges and all such entities,” he wrote in the letter.