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delfin bautista poses for a portrait in Ohio University’s LGBT Center. (FILE)

Former LGBT director spent thousands on meals and personal purchases, audit says

An internal audit found that former Ohio University LGBT Center Director delfin bautista spent thousands of dollars in violation of university policy, making personal purchases and buying unnecessary staff meals.

bautista, who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name, charged more than $35,000 to their university credit card during fiscal year 2018. They may have to reimburse up to $6,380 to the university. The internal audit office found that although bautista cited a business purpose for many of the transactions, many might still constitute waste or abuse of university spending power.

Chief Audit Executive Jeffrey Davis recommended in the Dec. 14 audit that Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban talked to human resources about disciplining bautista. 

Secuban had initiated a review of the university credit card spending of seven officials in the diversity and inclusion office, but bautista was responsible for 88 percent of about $7,200 in spending found to violate university policy.

Secuban removed bautista from their position on Jan. 10. In a grievance appealing their removal, bautista said it came without warning and was handled unprofessionally. bautista said Secuban’s only justification for the removal was that the office was “going in a different direction.” 

Secuban denied the appeal on Jan. 25. She alluded to expenses in the letter to bautista.

“(I) need to ensure that directors make appropriate use of of the budgets they have been provided as we have a responsibility to the tax payers of the state of Ohio as a publicly-funded institution,” Secuban wrote. “My observations since taking my role with the university have led me to conclude that new leadership at the center is necessary to ensure its success going forward.”

bautista said in an email that they were unaware of the audit findings.

“I was not given a copy of the audit, and findings were not communicated,” bautista said in the email. “I was not given any prior notice that my transactions raised questions and her initiation of the audit was a surprise.”

bautista did not respond to a follow-up request for an interview.

Budget concerns

In a March 23, 2017, email, Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Shari Clarke requested that each diversity and inclusion office not purchase any promotional items, food or entertainment, according to the audit memo. bautista spent $2,240 with their university credit card after that email.

The LGBT Center then ran $13,400 over its budget for fiscal year 2018, according to the audit. Without additional funding from Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina, the center would have run about $49,000 over its original budget.

Each of bautista’s transactions were processed by Cutler Business Services. Davis wrote that Cutler Business Services was not “in the best position” to gauge how reasonable the transactions were or whether the information employees provided was accurate.

“It is (the audit office’s) opinion that while Cutler Business Services is knowledgeable of (university) policy and substantiation requirements, Cutler Business Services was too far removed from (Diversity and Inclusion) to approve transactions for necessity and reasonableness,” Davis wrote.

Leatherwood did not answer whether the Office for Diversity and Inclusion would be changing any of its credit card use or review procedures.

Self-care meals

OU allows employees to charge their cards for business meals or entertainment as long as the meals have a business purpose and include two or more people. 

In a review of credit card data of all university employees for fiscal year 2018, bautista had the eighth-highest spending on meals in Athens, according to the memo.

“The large volume of meals purchased in FY18, in light of bautista’s personal constraints, have called into question whether those meals were a reasonable and necessary business practice or a misuse of bautista’s authority as a PCard holder,” Davis wrote in the memo.

The audit team identified 20 “self-care meals” and staff meals that did not meet university guidelines for business meals. The price of the meals totalled $2,105.

One $86 “self-care staff meeting” took place at Shively Dining Hall because “staff (were) feeling burnt out.” Another “self-care dinner” for a student who had been hospitalized took place at Applebee’s and cost $78.

bautista held several meetings and trainings at restaurants including OU’s Latitude 39, Texas Roadhouse and Applebee’s. The most expensive meal, a training event at Ruby Tuesday, cost $245.

Some meals were related to political events. One $110 meal at El Camino Mexican Restaurant on Jan. 20, 2017, was for “students upset over (President Donald Trump’s) inauguration.” bautista purchased $204 in pizza during the Baker Center rally on Feb. 1, 2017, during which 70 students were arrested.

bautista also purchased $887 in “thank you meals” for staff and volunteers. The expenses didn’t meet the criteria for gifts because they were for people within the university, according to the memo.

“A wide range of items”

Before the audit, the university has required reimbursement from bautista at least 21 times since 2014.

“In addition to the significant amount, the frequency with which personal reimbursements were necessary, as well as the lack of timely repayment due to the employee’s expressed financial strain, was of concern,” Davis wrote.

Some of the reimbursements were due to sales tax or receipts that weren’t itemized, but $1,040 were from transactions the audit team determined were personal expenses.

At one point, bautista charged $258 in personal groceries after their debit card was declined, according to the memo. They reimbursed some of the money to the university.

Other purchases the audit team determined were personal expenses included an iPad case, T-shirts, a My Little Pony coin bank and rainbow tiaras for a drag show. Those purchases totaled $495.

Davis said in the memo that certain items — although bautista provided a business use for them — might be wasteful. The memo listed 53 examples purchased from Walmart, including nail polish, Bluetooth speakers, kitchen equipment, decorations, sunscreen, a punching bag and a poop emoji piñata. Those items were present at the center during the audit.

“There was no evidence that these items were converted to personal use or were misappropriated,” Davis wrote. “However, management should again consider whether these purchases were necessary for programmatic needs or whether there is evidence of waste.”

Click below to read the full audit memo:


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