NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The University of Tennessee is withholding nearly $250,000 in severance pay for former president John Shumaker pending release of a state comptroller's audit of his expenditures.
"Under current circumstances, we believe it is prudent to suspend the severance payment to Dr. Shumaker until the comptroller's audit is completed and other questions about Dr. Shumaker are resolved," Clayton McWhorter, vice chairman of the UT Board of Trustees, said in a statement released Wednesday.
The comptroller's audit is scheduled for release on Thursday morning at a meeting of the Legislature's joint Fiscal Review Committee.
"I think that just makes sense," said acting UT President Joe Johnson. "We should see what (Comptroller) John Morgan comes up with first."
Shumaker resigned Aug. 8 after an internal UT audit raised questions about his expenditures. He and Gov. Phil Bredesen negotiated the severance package to settle his $735,000-per-year contract.
The settlement was approved Aug. 21 by the UT Board of Trustees upon Bredesen's strong recommendation that it would be cheaper for the state than taking Shumaker and his contract to court.
It called for Shumaker to be paid $422,956 in lieu of up to $1.7 million the contract called for, in exchange for Shumaker's unconditional departure.
The settlement calls for the university to pay Shumaker $249,800, and recommends the UT Foundation, a quasi-private fund-raising entity that supplemented his salary, pay him $173,156.
The foundation has not taken any action on its part of the payment, either making it or withholding it. The foundation's board of directors was scheduled to meet Thursday in Knoxville. Foundation president Eli Fly said Wednesday the board was not expected to take up the issue of Shumaker's severance pay.
The reason for waiting on the comptroller's audit is to see if it brings to light more than bad judgment on Shumaker's part.
An earlier Fiscal Review Committee meeting on the university's internal audit of Shumaker's spending devoted considerable discussion to a personal electronic calendar in the president's office that had been altered, with trips to Little Rock, Ark., and Birmingham deleted. The audit concluded that Shumaker was making personal trips on the UT airplane.
"Information had been changed, removed," UT auditor Mark Paganelli told the committee in August, noting that the calendar had been turned over to the state comptroller's office for its consideration.
Committee co-chairman Sen. Jerry Cooper, D-Morrison, said at the time he considered the calendar a "smoking gun" indicating Shumaker may have been guilty of intentionally trying to hamper the investigation of his expenditures, as opposed to just having extravagant tastes and poor record-keeping skills.
Cooper also said he wanted to investigate how the state could get out of paying Shumaker any severance.
Shumaker eventually reimbursed the university $34,747.71 for personal expenses that had been covered with university money during his 13-month presidency, which the internal audit revealed was an overpayment on his part of nearly $2,000.
Earlier this week, Connecticut State University officials alerted state prosecutors and other authorities about an internal audit that faulted Shumaker's acceptance of $10,000 in cash from Hyundai Corp., a $5,000 trip to South Korea and his use of compensatory time when he was president of Central Connecticut State University between 1987 and 1995.