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Shumaker denied $250,000

Severance package frozen pending investigation of possible crimes

Published (Volume 76, No. 8)

Credit: File

John Shumaker

Credit: File

The University of Tennessee has frozen $250,000 of the severance package due to former President John W. Shumaker.

State Comptroller John Morgan issued the results of an ongoing special audit into the business practices of Shumaker Thursday that finds he may have broken state laws by lying to auditors.

Morgan has delivered the report to Tennessee Attorney General Paul Summers and the Knox County District Attorney General for further action if either agency deems necessary.
Shumaker’s attorneys seem to think that the audit is nothing more than a ploy for the state to get out of paying Shumaker his severance package.

The Tennessean reported on Thursday that in a letter addressed to the co-chairmen of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, Shumaker’s attorney said that the state was trying to justify Tennessee’s refusal to honor its promises and commitments.

“Unfortunately, the process appears not to be an audit, but instead an attempt to justify the state of Tennessee’s apparent refusal to honor its promises and commitments to Dr. Shumaker,” Shumaker’s attorney, Wade Davies, was quoted to have said in The Tennessean.

UT interim President Joe Johnson also told reporters that he did not know what prompted the trustees to freeze the payments. The trustees are scheduled to meet today in Knoxville.

“If our Board of Trustees has questions and wants answers before releasing the dollars, I am fully supportive of that,” Johnson said in The Tennessean.

The Tennessean also reported that, according to an official familiar with the audit, the report looks into trips that Shumaker took to Birmingham, Ala., and other places that were not shown in the calendars turned over to the UT auditors.

The comptroller’s audit is to be presented to a joint meeting of the Fiscal Review Committee and the Education Oversight Com-mittee.

Rep. Les Winningham, chairman of the House Education Committee, told The Tennessean that he doesn’t know what’s coming. “I don’t know what can of worms it will open. I hope we can clamp the lid down and move forward.”

Shumaker also asked for reimbursements for hotel expenses incurred while at a conference in San Antonio, Texas, but later it was shown that he actually shared a hotel room with his friend Carol Garrison, president of the University of Ala-bama at Birmingham and also involved at the University of Louisville when Shumaker was there.

When Shumaker re-signed in August, it was discovered that he had spent more than $31,800 inappropriately, routinely failed to turn in receipts, overspent lodging allowances, received exemptions to university policies, and bought high-dollar items for his residence, which according to the Knoxville News Sentinel included a $7,000 Persian rug, a $4,822 gas grill, a $7,431 entertainment center and a sunroom costing $7,175.

The severance package that was originally to be granted to Shumaker totaled $422,956.84. Of that, $250,000 is funded by taxpayers, which is the amount the trustees froze.