On the seventh day, he was still fired

Hearing board denies RLH director reinstatement after long testimonyby Bobby Summers

1996 The Daily Cougar

The University of Houston intends to uphold the termination of Ahmad Kashani, former interim director of UH Residential Life and Housing, despite a UH post-dismissal hearing board's recommendation of complete reinstatement and back pay.

The hearing board heard seven days of testimony from Kashani and other UH officials near the end of November and forwarded its recommendations to UH interim President Glenn A. Goerke.

Goerke released a written statement indicating he "determined that it was in the best interest of the university to uphold Kashani's termination."

According to the statement, Goerke's decision was "based on components of a preliminary audit conducted by the UH System Internal Auditing Department and an investigation by the UH Police Department."

The statement also reported that the internal audit and police investigation found poor management practices, violations of university policies and "potential criminal activities."

UH Executive Vice President Glenn B. Freedman said the university administration is "duty-bound" to investigate all allegations brought to the university's attention by anyone.

"In this case, we had allegations of use of university resources that were inappropriate," he said. "Were resources and employees of the university used by a university employee? The answer is yes. Were those resources and employees used on university time? The answer is yes. Was the university reimbursed for the use of those resources and employees? We have no record that ever happened."

Freedman said the university is responsible for ensuring that the resources of the State are used appropriately.

"When you find they have not been, what do you decide to do with that employee?" he asked. "In our estimation, these kind of things happened. When the weight of the evidence is that (State resources have been misused), we can't allow those things to continue."

Freedman added, "Now, there's a whole other situation out there that has been turned over to the district attorney's office. But that's a different issue."

Kashani was fired Oct. 6, 1995. At the time, UH officials refused to comment on reasons for the dismissal, citing "pending litigation."

As of Tuesday, neither Kashani nor anyone else connected to the case had been arrested or charged with any crime.

The investigation of Kashani and the RLH Department began in November 1994 when two "whistle-blowers" came forward with allegations of impropriety against RLH management, UHPD Chief George Hess said in December.

Hess said his department's investigation is complete "except for a couple of loose ends to tie up."

"We have forwarded our findings to the district attorney," Hess said.

Assistant Harris County District Attorney Randy Ayers said Thursday that his office is reviewing the UHPD report.

"The final report is very extensive. We expect to present the case to a grand jury before the end of February," Ayers said.

In a recent story, The Daily Cougar cited a Sept. 29, 1995, police report alleging Kashani misused university vehicles, property and employees.

The preliminary UH internal audit report found problems of "noncompliance with Human Resources management statutes and policies," including an unofficial compensatory time-keeping system, improper termination of employees and improper handling of family medical leave procedures.

The internal audit also found violations of UH System requirements for vendor contracts, unfair bidding practices and failure to report suspected criminal activity.

Both the police and internal audit reports questioned Kashani's relationship with certain vendors working with the university.

The police report listed several "conflict-of-interest issues," including questions about Kashani's relationship with David Cantu, whose painting company, Fresh Look, received approximately $280,000 in painting contracts from RLH between 1991 and 1995.

According to the report, Kashani shared a post office box with Cantu and also "assist(ed) (Cantu) with the preparation of invoices and other administrative paperwork."

Additionally, the report notes that Kashani was "receiving mail addressed to Texas Rainbow, a company that is currently doing business with Residential Life and Housing."

Texas Rainbow owns and operates all the washing machines and dryers in residence halls. Kashani was formerly a partner in the company, but reportedly sold his interest.

After Goerke's announcement that Kashani would not be reinstated, Kashani's attorney, David Lopez, released a written statement in which the former RLH director said, "The notice by the president that he would disregard the unanimous findings and recommendations of the appeals committee that I be reinstated with back pay was very disappointing to me. The diligent and dedicated work of the committee over seven days of hearings, the hundreds of pages of documentation and the testimony of many witnesses, all of whom, except (UH) Police Chief George Hess, supported my position, apparently were not given the consideration they merit."

Lopez said his client was particularly unhappy with the way UHPD and the UH Internal Audit Division conducted their investigations. He said Kashani asked the hearing board to recommend that the university look at the way those investigations were handled.

Kashani's statement also noted, "I hope that the administration acts, as it appears to have agreed to do, to implement the recommendations of the appeals committee regarding investigations of university staff. Perhaps this will help prevent others being mistreated, as I have been, for doing no more than suggesting that campus police should be held to the same standards as other employees."

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