Dear Commons Community,
At the request of Chancellor James Milliken, City University of New York is investigating whether a recent $500,000 donation intended to bolster the humanities and arts at City College was improperly diverted for other purposes. As reported by the New York Times:
“The inquiry was prompted by senior faculty members at the school, the City College of New York, who learned that an account that should have contained roughly $600,000, thanks to the donation, had just $76. Faculty members asked City College officials for an explanation, but were met with “silence, delay and deflection” before appealing directly to the university’s chancellor, James B. Milliken. Mr. Milliken then asked Frederick P. Schaffer, the university’s general counsel and senior vice chancellor for legal affairs, to look into the “the expenditure of monies donated,” according to documents obtained by The New York Times.
The account in question — the Martin and Toni Sosnoff Fund for the Arts — is part of the holdings of the City College 21st Century Foundation, the school’s principal fund-raising arm. The finances of that foundation, as well as those of City College’s president and her family, are already being investigated by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn.
In May, The Times reported that the foundation had paid for some personal expenses of the president, Lisa S. Coico, such as fruit baskets, housekeeping services and rugs when she took office in 2010. The foundation was then reimbursed for more than $150,000 from the Research Foundation of the City University of New York, which manages research funds for CUNY, the largest urban public university system in the country. But that arrangement has raised questions of propriety, because such funds are typically earmarked for research.
It is unclear whether federal prosecutors are also looking at the $500,000 donation in June to the Sosnoff Fund. But Mr. Milliken’s willingness to conduct an internal investigation suggests that the finances of City College, and the leadership of Ms. Coico, are likely to be under more scrutiny, just as a new school year has started.
…CUNY announced in July that it had hired an outside counsel — Andrew J. Levander, the chairman of Dechert L.L.P. and a former federal prosecutor — to ensure that the 21st Century Foundation complied with “all applicable laws” because “the faithful stewardship of funds, regardless of amount or source, is a matter of the highest importance.”
Let’s hope that there has indeed been faithful stewardship of these funds.