2 professors accused of double-dipping

The Georgia attorney general's office is investigating the pair over allegations by Georgia Tech of double billing.

Tom Moran

The Georgia attorney general’s office is investigating a distinguished duo of University health professors, recruited away from Georgia Tech last year, for potential fraud and theft and allegedly collecting payment from both schools.

The husband-and-wife team of Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko are suspected of dual employment – double-billing their time at Georgia Tech and falsifying travel reimbursement documents – along with other potentially illegal actions, according to a Georgia Tech statement.

Sainfort and Jacko signed employment agreements with Georgia Tech last October and January, respectively, after beginning full-time employment at the University on Oct. 1, according to their revocation notifications.

So far, the Georgia Tech investigation has revealed approximately $100,000 in questionable activity, the statement said.

Georgia Tech’s audit department discovered the alleged activity in a review of expense records. The Atlanta polytechnical school referred the case to the attorney general, which is standard practice for that institution.

Sainfort is the head of the Division of Health Policy and Management in the School of Public Health. Jacko is the director of the Institute for Health Informatics through the School of Nursing.

Health informatics, a relatively new field of study, is based on the collection and analysis of computer-generated health care data for decision making.

Both professors are considered leaders in the field and were recruited for their ability to attract grants and contribute to publications.

Martin Goldberg, the Miami-based attorney representing Sainfort and Jacko, said his clients were “completely bewildered and shocked by Georgia Tech’s actions.”

Goldberg said he and his clients were looking forward to cooperating with an objective review by the attorney general’s office.

“Georgia Tech is not presenting the facts accurately or completely and the suggestion that either professor committed any crime is ridiculous,” he said.

Sainfort has been the lead researcher of more than $13 million in contracts and grants. They’ve each written more than 120 publications.

John Finnegan Jr., dean of the School of Public Health, said there’s no University money involved in the scandal.

“We’re obviously in an information-gathering situation,” he said of the University’s role in the matter.

Sainfort and Jacko told the University of the dispute more than a month ago, Finnegan said.

“They’ve been very forthcoming in that sense,” he said.

The University had been recruiting the two professors for about a year, Finnegan said, adding that Georgia Tech was given an opportunity to make a counteroffer to the University’s.

Sainfort earns $285,000 at the University and Jacko’s salary is $216,000 – a collective increase of roughly $100,000 from their Georgia Tech pay.

The situation surfaced last Wednesday when Georgia Tech issued a statement saying it had referred the case to the state’s attorney general’s office.

The school said it was revoking the pair’s tenure but didn’t reveal their identities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution named Sainfort and Jacko on Saturday after obtaining their tenure revocation documents.