U examines treasurer’s bankruptcy

Kristin Gustafson

Ð The Minnesota Daily

The University’s treasurer was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after officials learned of her involvement in several personal-bankruptcy cases.
Georgina Yvonne Stephens, the University’s treasurer and associate vice president of treasury operations, is responsible for handling $1.3 billion in cash and long-term University assets as well as managing $533.3 million of University debts.
Although the litigation is not related to Stephens’ management of University funds, the bankruptcy cases involve management of investments and real estate — two functions of her University position.
University President Mark Yudof said the issue is “quite serious” and the University wanted to look into Stephens’ outside litigation.
Along with her husband, Larry Alexander, Stephens has been involved in foreclosure and bankruptcy proceedings as far back as 1989.
In the latest case, filed in June under the name G. Yvonne Stephens, she owed more than $197,000, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records. A month later, Stephens filed a plan to repay her debts, but Maryland-based Capstead Mortgage Corporation filed a memorandum objecting to the bankruptcy repayment plan.
“G. Yvonne Stephens and her husband Larry Alexander have been engaged in a continuous pattern of malicious bad faith litigation with multiple parties for nearly a decade,” Capstead’s attorney wrote in a memorandum filed Aug. 9 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. “This pattern of conduct, and its continuation into Ms. Stephens’ bankruptcy should be dealt with decisively and expeditiously by denying Stephens any chance to exploit the bankruptcy court as she has attempted to manipulate the state court system.”
Stephens, who began working at the University in August 1997, was unavailable for comment.
Yudof said Monday that “the long and the short of it is she’s involved in some external litigation having nothing to do with the University, but the allegations are quite serious, and we are going to look into them.”
As University treasurer, a Board of Regents-appointed position, Stephens manages the University’s investments and debts, as well as reports to the board and Yudof about the University’s finances, including real-estate transactions, a significant issue in the bankruptcy cases.
In her other position as associate vice president of treasury operations, Stephens — who also manages University cash management, the University’s bursar, risk management and U Card transactions — reports to Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer.
Stephens’ combined salary for the two positions is nearly $125,000.
Pfutzenreuter refused to comment on Stephens’ leave.
University funds were not involved in any of the questionable transactions, said Tonya Moten Brown, Yudof’s chief of staff.
The University will review “the issues involved in those matters (to see if they) are relevant to the position she occupies,” Brown said.
But until the review is completed, Brown would not speculate on what she expected the University to find. No time line has been set for the review or any potential sanctions.
No other University employees have been placed on leave because of Stephens’ bankruptcy cases, Brown said.
While on leave, Stephens will retain her title, salary and benefits, Brown said. But she has not been in her office since Wednesday. Brown said Stephens’ external litigation was brought to the University’s attention within the last two weeks but would not say how.
Brown said the University is “reviewing” the bankruptcy litigation but said she would not call it an internal investigation.
Regent and former Minnesota AFL-CIO treasurer, William Peterson, said the board was informed of Stephens’ administrative leave but said he did not know of the specifics of the litigation.
“The first thing we have to do is get a good look at it and get out all of the facts,” Peterson said. He would not comment further about the University’s action.
At the regents’ Oct. 8 meeting, the board praised Stephens’ performance.
The University’s review “doesn’t involve (Stephens’) job performance; it doesn’t involve funds here; it just doesn’t involve the University in any way,” Yudof said Monday. “We have not detected any internal problems but the external litigation raised issues we felt needed to be investigated.”

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3211.