Wednesday, August 22, 2001 Volume 66, Issue 1


 
 









 
Whistleblower series at the Hilton continues on

Angie Patton
Guest Columnist

In April, The Daily Cougar ran a three-part series on the plight of "whistleblowers" at the University. As explained by Hilton College associate professor Stephen Barth, UH
employees are "damned if they do and damned if they don't" when it comes to complying with UH policy.

Barth is referring to the dilemma employees face when reporting illegal or improper activity to the UH administration. University policy requires employees to come forward when
they suspect misconduct, yet those who do are often the targets of retaliation.

This scenario is one that Barth knows well. When he approached the administration with his own concerns, he received a "talk to the hand" welcome and two years' worth of
trouble. But Barth persevered.

His vindication came in the form of a UH internal audit report, dated June 25, that supports Barth's claims of impropriety on the part of Alan Stutts, Dean of the Hilton College of
Hotel and Restaurant Management.

The report states that Dean Stutts agrees with the findings of the audit and has conceded that his handling of certain matters was inconsistent with UH policy. According to the
audit findings, Stutts violated UH policy on three occasions and now wishes he hadn't done things the way he did.

What makes the report all the more compelling is that a year ago, George Hess (former UHPD chief of police) and Frank Cempa were publicly hung out to dry over three counts
of violating UH policy. Unlike Stutts' case, there was no discussion, no reprimand, and no opportunity for the men to wish they had handled the situation differently. The
difference between Stutts' misuse of funds and Hess' and Cempa's misuse of discretion is that Hess and Cempa were already guilty of crimes against the administration (i.e.,
public humiliation).

The plot thickens as the report mentions that Barth had contacted UHPD to allege possible infractions of the penal code. The audit states that "representatives" of UHPD
"concurred" with internal auditing's assessment that there was no violation of the penal code. Therefore, UHPD felt that no further investigation was warranted.

What the report fails to mention is that Barth originally registered his concerns with George Hess, who was UHPD's chief of police at the time. The report does not include the
detail that before Hess was terminated, he had launched an investigation into possible misconduct on the part of Dean Stutts. Shortly after he initiated the inquiry, he was fired
by Associate Vice President for Administration John Martin, who assumed responsibility of the UHPD. Hess' investigation evaporated.

Institutional policies and procedures are only effective if they are administered consistently. Consider that UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29 Section 1.2 states,
"University of Houston employees have a responsibility to the public in the performance of their official duties." And yet, the internal audit of Hotel and Restaurant Management
assertions did not consult SAM 02.A.29, "Ethical Conduct of Employees," in its investigation of allegations against Dean Stutts.

The UH Board of Regents did not consult this same policy and never investigated the allegations made by Hess. Additionally, in the Board bylaws, Section 6 states that "Board
members have the right and duty to be fully informed on all matters that influence their obligations as regents." Despite the serious nature of Hess' allegations, the Board never
met with or questioned Hess. Instead, the Board relied on the information that was provided to it by the very people against whom the allegations were leveled.

The failure of the Board to "seek and receive information to ensure that its policies and directives are effectuated" seems to violate the spirit of the Board's own policies. With the
administration's track record of stonewalling investigations, it would seem that the Board would be more cautious. Perhaps now, with the findings of the HRM audit and the
unresolved matters involving Susan Septimus and George Hess, the Board will finally take notice and begin to ask questions. We can only hope.

Patton, an associate professor of 
art, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.


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