U keeps

Coralie Carlson

In light of critical new evidence, University officials are considering whether to reinvestigate a questionable contract between a former University dean and a state senator.
Mike Martin, former dean of the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, hired Sen. Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, through a private third-party company and paid him $12,500 through a backdated contract; that evidence came out at a Jan. 12 hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Ethical Conduct.
In October last year, the University Department of Audits and the Office of the General Counsel completed an investigation into the matter. The resulting report found that although Sams and Martin did not break the law, “the contractual arrangement … did not conform with good business practices.”
Gail Klatt, the University’s associate vice president of audits, said her office is watching the evidence that came out of the Senate hearing to decide if the University needs to look further into its own investigation.
During the hearings, it was revealed that Sams and Martin backdated a fake letter of agreement to cover up that the senator was originally paid with public funds.
University officials are trying to make a decision on whether to reopen the case as soon as possible, said Bill Donohue, deputy general counsel for the University. No deadline has been set for the decision.
Because Martin left the University last year to take a job at the University of Florida, University officials can’t take any action against him.
Donohue said his office would not bring criminal investigations against Martin. But the information is already on public record, so other parties could press charges.
“The only thing we’re trying to do is have a complete and accurate report of what happened,” said Mark Rotenburg, the University’s general counsel. He said he hopes to have an updated report to University President Mark Yudof in about two weeks.
In 1997, a bill authored by Sams delivered $1 million to the University’s agricultural college. Later that year, Martin paid an outside company $13,500 for educational CD-ROMs –funded with money from Sams’ legislation.
According to the University’s investigation, the outside company purchased $1,000 of CDs for Martin and relayed the rest of the money to Sams for consulting.
At the urging of Martin’s staff members, the former dean replaced the public money he used to pay Sams with private funds. He also produced a letter of agreement from the previous fall which specified Sams’ duties and that his payment would draw from private funds.
But the hearings two weeks ago revealed that the letter of agreement was actually created in June — six months after it was dated — to conceal the original payment.