ECU dental dean steps down following state audit

2009 04 10 11 34 20 787 Schoolhouse 70

James R. Hupp, DMD, MD, JD, dean of the new School of Dental Medicine at East Carolina University (ECU), resigned today following the release of a state audit report that raises questions about some of his travel and reporting expenses.

"The results of our audit disclosed deficiencies in internal control and/or instances of noncompliance or other matters that are considered reportable under generally accepted government auditing standards," the report stated.

The audit report, released August 16, cited trips by Dr. Hupp to Kiawah Island, SC; Destin, FL; Germany; and Switzerland. The overseas trips had questionable value for ECU, the auditors said, while the trip to South Carolina included no itinerary or other records to back up the reimbursement, and the Florida trip included "significant changes" after the travel was approved.

"We noted several concerns that related specifically to the travel reimbursements submitted by the Dean of the School of Dental Medicine," the report stated. "While there appears to be a business component to each of the trips, we question whether the costs were all reasonable and necessary, and thus, whether they were appropriate uses of state funds."

State auditors are calling on the university to tighten its financial controls, especially with regard to travel reimbursements, to ensure that travel costs "meet the ongoing mission of the School of Dental Medicine." In addition, "university employees should be conscious of possible conflicts of interest and avoid accepting travel benefits that could be defined as such," the report noted.

"We absolutely must address these reporting issues," stated ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard in a news release. "While we do that, the mission, the facilities, and the plans for the School of Dental Medicine are all intact and robust, and the school remains one of our proudest and most important initiatives."

Dr. Hupp also failed to comply with reporting requirements for income he received from a part-time teaching assignment at another university and from serving as the editor of a scholarly journal, Ballard noted.

Dr. Hupp said in submitting his resignation that he did not want to be a distraction to the school, Ballard noted. He plans to remain on the faculty of the school.

"We will name an interim dean as soon as possible to make sure that the dental school does not lose any momentum," Ballard said. "Our first 52 dental students are on campus now for orientation, and classes will begin next week. The new dental school building is on schedule for completion next year."

Dr. Hupp joined ECU as the first dean of the dental school in November 2008 after serving six years as dean of the University of Mississippi Medical Center School of Dentistry.

In 2008, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $69 million to complete the construction of ECU's new dental school, the second dental school in the state.

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