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Auditor Finds Financial Misuse at Technical College

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state auditor found several misuses of public money at the Mountainland Applied Technology College.

The Utah Board of Regents recently placed former Mountainland administrator Robert Brems, now president of the Utah College of Applied Technology, on administrative leave as the auditor checked the books.

Clay Christensen, Mountainland campus president, is also on paid leave during the investigation.

State auditors claim Christensen falsified documents to cover up the use of public funds to pay for a parade float for the Utah Republican Party. He spent just more than $400 of school money, which later was reimbursed by a donation.

Auditors said Christensen was warned by the auditor and attorney general that it was illegal use the school money on the GOP float.

"You can't use public funds to encourage people to vote one way or the other," State Auditor Auston Johnson said. "We wonder what kind of pressure they were under to break the law and falsify documents."

According to audit documents, Christensen said he was "trying to repair some damaged relationships" with state lawmakers.

The MATC board of directors, in a written audit response, suggested there was "undue pressure and influence" applied by a few unnamed state lawmakers.

The audit also questioned a $157,782 payment package Brems received when he left MATC in May 2006 to become president of UCAT. The school's board of directors agreed to the terms of the package in a closed-door meeting, saying that would be the amount Brems would receive if he qualified for early retirement. However, he did not qualify for any such benefits, the audit found, and awarding that package in a closed session broke Utah's open meeting laws.

"We did not do anything illegal in the package or approval," said Chuck Castleton, chairman of the MATC board. "In hindsight, we wish we would have dug deeper and done some things differently."

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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