The University of Minnesota revealed Friday that its chief information officer, Scott Studham, resigned under pressure last week following complaints about alleged misconduct.
Between May and August, the university received four complaints accusing Studham of hiring friends in violation of university rules, using university funds for personal expenses and other questionable actions.
The U said it conducted a preliminary review, but had not launched a formal investigation, by the time Studham resigned Sept. 4 at the request of President Eric Kaler.
Since then, two additional complaints, which remain confidential, have been filed against him, according to the university. The U released the information in response to public records requests from news media.
Studham, 41, vigorously disputes the allegations. He had been vice president of information technology since February 2012 and earned $265,035 a year.
He said in a statement Friday that the allegations are “based on rumors, misunderstandings or — in a couple of cases — an honest mistake on my part like failing to properly record a vacation day … I’m confident that, if any of these allegations had proceeded beyond the preliminary phase, they would have been resolved favorably.”
Studham is the second top official at the U to quit abruptly in the past month. On Aug. 6, Norwood Teague resigned as athletic director in the wake of sexual harassment complaints. Also in August, one of Teague’s top assistants, Mike Ellis, was asked to take a voluntary leave while under investigation for several complaints.
Earlier this week, Studham was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying that he had quit, in part, to train for an Ironman triathlon in October.
But on Friday, Kaler told the Board of Regents that it was his decision to “make a change in our Office of Information Technology,” and that Studham “agreed to step aside and … resigned last week.” The university also released dozens of pages of documents about complaints that had been filed against Studham.
A summary of the complaints, prepared by the office of internal audits, included allegations that he spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal expenses and equipment. The list includes eight laptops and seven desktop computers, an Oculus Rift 3-D gaming device, a body camera, two pairs of Google Glasses and a “video aerial drone.”
Studham provided a detailed rebuttal to the U in writing, saying that none of the items had been purchased for personal use. He said that he did “not know the location of 6 of them,” however, and that he agreed to reimburse the university for those items.
He also was accused of hiring friends and former co-workers without posting the jobs as required, and paying them full-time for little or no work. Studham replied that the people he hired were highly skilled, and that it is “completely untruthful” to suggest they didn’t earn their pay.
One complaint accused Studham of hiring a consultant to “ghostwrite a book” about him.
“That is laughable,” Studham told the university. He said that a consultant “did propose I write a book and we both laughed it off.”
Another complaint said he had authorized the purchase of $48,000 in video equipment, purportedly for a movie project “to enhance his and other IT senior leaders’ brand.” Studham denied ever seeing the video equipment. “I have no ‘Personal Movie Project’ and never have,” he wrote.
In the rebuttal, he admitted that he may have failed to properly record some of his time off, and invited the U to “dock my final pay accordingly.”
Statement from Studham
On Friday, Studham said in an e-mail to the Star Tribune that “it was the right time for me to leave the University so that I could pursue my passion for using low-cost technology to transform education,” he wrote. “And, as I’ve noted — mostly humorously but with an element of truth — so that I can train for an October triathlon where I’ll need every edge I can get.”
Studham also said that he was grateful to have had the chance to lead the U’s IT department and to work with “an amazing group of co-workers who operate in a very challenging” environment.
Kaler named Bernard Gulachek, Studham’s associate vice president and a 29-year veteran of the department, as interim vice president and chief information officer.
Staff writer Emma Nelson contributed to this report.