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Utah tech-college president is placed on leave after audit

Published: Thursday, Aug. 9 2007 12:07 a.m. MDT

The president of Utah College of Applied Technology was put on administrative leave after a state audit revealed significant problems at one of the institution's locations.

A statement from the state Board of Regents says that President and Chief Operating Officer Robert O. Brems is mentioned specifically in the audit, which pertains to the Orem campus of Mountainland ATC. The regents expect to do additional research to determine what role Brems played in what the state auditor is calling "very serious problems with controls."

"It has to do with internal controls at the school," said State Auditor Auston Johnson. "Management has a responsibility to make sure that everything operates the way it's supposed to, and they do that by establishing controls so that no single person has total control of a transaction, so that somebody's always looking and following up and reviewing the work of somebody else."

Without being specific, Johnson said these controls were being handled incorrectly and said he wouldn't call it "stealing." He added that four specific instances were reported in the audit.

"It's not financial problems with the reports of the school, but financial problems with how transactions are handled within the school and some decisions that were made there," he said.

An internal complaint was directed to the office of the auditor earlier this year, which Johnson said concerned "how some things were going down there and we went to look at it and found that there was substance to the complaint.

"It's really boring stuff, it's the checks and balances, but it's the No. 1 cause of problems," Johnson said.

Upon receipt of a draft copy of the audit, regents immediately asked the commissioner to place Brems on paid administrative leave, stating they would conduct additional studies into the findings and recommendations of the state audit report, expected to be released to the public next Friday.

Regent Chairman Jed H. Pitcher said that in order "to ensure the complete objectivity and fairness of such inquiries," Brems will be on leave "until the matters pertaining to him are fully resolved." Jared Haines, current vice president of UCAT, will serve as the acting president during the interim period.

Brems was appointed as the second president of UCAT in May 2006, but before that he served as the president and CEO of the Mountainland ATC campus. He also is a former director of applied technology education services at the Utah State Office of Education. Brems has been an instructor of applied technology and earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees in industrial education from Utah State University.

The audit is not complete without a response from the agencies it concerns, and draft copies have been sent to the Board of Regents, the Mountainland Applied Technology College Board of Trustees, as well as the UCAT Board of Trustees. Johnson said they have until Aug. 14 to respond, but a meeting to discuss the language or tone of the audit report has been set for Aug. 16, so he expects the responses will be delayed.

He said the nature of the problems could be more widespread and the possibility of additional audits will be looked into as the other eight UCAT campuses "react to these findings."


E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

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