The New York State Inspector General’s Office today released its findings regarding allegations that drivers of the former president of The City University of New York’s (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice were overpaid via funds from the Research Foundation of CUNY as a result of a referral by CUNY and John Jay College.
John Jay College – one of 11 senior colleges of CUNY with a student body of over 15,000 and an academic staff of approximately 1,300 – reported to the Inspector General in 2017 that an internal audit had uncovered possible overpayments to the drivers.
By using funds from the Research Foundation, John Jay College was able to circumvent restrictions in New York State Civil Service Law and Retirement and Social Security Law limiting salaries that can be received by State public service retirees who subsequently return to State service while drawing a pension. Specifically, former President Jeremy Travis hired two retired New York City Police Department officers as drivers at salaries exceeding the annual statutory limit for public service retirees ($30,000 at that time) and used the Research Foundation’s funds to pay the portion of their salaries that exceeded the cap.
The Inspector General’s investigation found:
- While both drivers received their pensions, the drivers’ annual salaries grew far beyond the cap, with one driver ultimately earning $81,000 and the other earning $87,000.
- John Jay College and its Office of Human Resources devised a complicated payment structure to effectuate the salaries.
- The college mistitled the drivers as “mail messengers,” “continuing education teachers,” “administrative assistants,” and “research associates.”
- Former President Travis misused his driving services to transport his wife to and from her job and inappropriately used college petty cash to pay for coffee and newspapers.
Both drivers retired from CUNY service during the investigation. Although the findings of this investigation revealed no intentional wrongdoing by the drivers, the Inspector General recommends that CUNY evaluate the status of funds paid to the drivers.
In response to the Inspector General’s findings, CUNY has placed limitations on the earnings of certain retired public employees returning to CUNY employment and the granting of waivers for salaries exceeding statutory thresholds. The Inspector General further recommends that CUNY and its Research Foundation ensure that time and attendance procedures are followed and that leave accruals are accurately reported.
“Statutory salary limits for state pensioners returning to state service exist to ensure prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” said acting Inspector General Robyn Adair. “In this case, John Jay College wrongfully diverted Research Foundation funds to reimburse retirees beyond what they were legally entitled to receive. John Jay College has since implemented reforms to ensure that statutory salary caps are followed.”
“CUNY appreciates the work of the Office of the New York State Inspector General in this matter, which John Jay College referred to the IG and we look forward to reviewing and adopting the recommendations of the report,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “CUNY is committed to identifying and addressing issues of potential impropriety by referring such instances promptly to the appropriate authorities and cooperating fully with their investigations.”