College president reimburses expenses after WECT's public records request

College president reimburses expenses after WECT's public records request

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Cape Fear Community College President Dr. Ted Spring reimbursed his employer for more than $2500 in expenses recently after a public records request into credit card spending at CFCC.

For the past several months, WECT has reached out to several public agencies to learn more about expenses at each institution. All agencies have obliged with opening the books to public scrutiny.

At CFCC, Dr. Ted Spring makes a little more than $268,000 a year after a raise in September. Our public records request revealed that Dr. Spring spent an additional $16,000 last year on his college-issued charge card, which includes expenses for items like airline seat upgrades, meals, a plane ticket for his wife and alcohol.

Dr. Spring charged more than $1,700 to fly himself and his wife to a President's Academy conference in Sacramento this summer. $,1300 was the base fare, but the college spent $400 more upgrading the Springs' seats from coach to "choice seating."

Spring has also purchased meals for his wife with college money, as well as wine while out to eat on multiple occasions. For other restaurant purchases, Dr. Spring simply turned in a duplicate charge card receipt instead of an itemized receipt, so it's impossible to tell exactly what was purchased.

Recently, college administrators explained to us that Dr. Spring made those purchases from a special institutional fund called the vending fund. Revenue to that fund totals about $160,000 a year, generated from campus vending machines, the coffee shop and the cafeteria.

Because that revenue isn't tax or tuition money, CFCC says it's not governed by the same strict guidelines that limit how state money can be spent. For example, state money cannot be used to buy alcohol for consumption, or meals and plane tickets for family members of state employees.

Dr. Spring declined our request for an on-camera interview, but told us our inquiries into some of his charges prompted him to reimburse CFCC for his wife's meals and airfare, his seating upgrade on the flight to California, as well as all alcohol purchases and a payment he made to the Boy Scouts for a charitable dinner.

Dr. Spring said there's nothing inappropriate about the charges, but he just didn't want them to become a distraction from the good work the college is doing. On September 26, Spring cut a check for $1377.91 to CFCC. He used his personal credit card to reimburse $1159.28 of expenses on October 15.

While the state does allow colleges some discretion about how they use vending funds, they require the board of trustees at each campus to develop policies about how this money can be spent. CFCC has no such policy. They told us that spending vending funds has been left up to the president's discretion traditionally.

Several trustees explained to us that Jason Harris, the chairman for the Board of Trustees at CFCC, was the spokesperson for the group; however, he declined our request to discuss Dr. Spring's purchases. Instead he asked us to email questions for consideration.

Sources indicate the trustees discussed these issues at their board meeting on Monday, with one member characterizing the discussion as a "vote of confidence" for Spring over the use of the charge card.

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