CFCC Trustees adopt more restrictive travel policy, question $126,000 piano

CFCC Trustees adopt more restrictive travel policy, question $126,000 piano
Cape Fear Community College is teaming up with Wilmington Cape Fear Home Builders Association to get students ready for work. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Cape Fear Community College Board of Trustees updated their travel policy Thursday, and the new policy is more restrictive of what is and is not allowed for employees traveling on college business.

The travel policy previously prohibited excess costs, luxury accommodations and services unnecessary or for the convenience or personal preference of the employee. The new policy goes a step further, saying those expenses "will not be reimbursed."

In addition, the revised policy requires employees to use the cheapest and most reasonable method of travel. The college aims to maximize the use of college owned vehicles or rental vehicles using state negotiated short-term rental contracts, and only to reimburse the use of personal vehicles on a limited basis.

The college came under fire last year when WECT uncovered former CFCC President Ted Spring was charging the college for mileage reimbursement when using a "courtesy car" he got for free. He filed for mileage reimbursement under the college's private vehicle rate.

At that time, CFCC's private vehicle rate mirrored the IRS reimbursement rate of 56 cents per mile, even though Spring's only expense for driving the car was gas. He later agreed that rate was inappropriate under the circumstances, and the college has since discontinued the use of courtesy cars.

Under the CFCC travel policy revised this week, the mileage reimbursement for the use of a private vehicle will mirror the current rates established by the Office of State Budget and Management, rates which are sometimes considerably lower than the IRS's federal reimbursement level.

Piano purchase questioned

During the meeting, Trustees Matt White and Mary Lyons Rouse questioned the recent purchase of a $126,000 piano for the Humanities and Fine Arts Center without their knowledge. College staff explained that the CFCC Foundation reimbursed the college for that purchase with private dollars, so it did not go before the trustees.

Fellow Trustee, John Melia, countered that he didn't think it was the board's place to micromanage the college, but rather to set policy. Still, some trustees said they would like to be made aware of substantial purchases in the future so they won't be surprised when asked about them by members of the public - like they were with the piano. Staff said communication on future purchases could be improved.

Changes involving CFCC Foundation

A recent study conducted by an outside consulting group found shortcomings involving CFCC's private fundraising arm, the CFCC Foundation.

Fuquay Solutions presented their findings to the board in January, relaying that they found evidence of an "inappropriate" role, a lack of conflict-of interest/ethics polices, and insufficient procedures inside the foundation designed to support the college.

A task force with members from the college board of trustees and the foundation board have been working to address those findings.

Trustee White said Thursday night that they have put together a memorandum of understanding so that both foundation board members and college trustees will be clearer on their respective roles and responsibilities.

They will now begin reviewing the foundation bylaws.

HFA Center turns profit in February

The new Humanities and Fine Arts Center posted a $33,000 profit for the month of February.

Despite some early financial setbacks when the $41 million publicly funded center opened last year, recent ticket sales have been brisk. CFCC has been able to add more performances to this year's lineup, and staff is optimistic about turnout and sales moving forward.

Board takes next steps on Schwartz Center Renovations

The board also gave staff permission Thursday to move forward with an architect on plans for an addition and renovation to the Schwartz Center, where the college basketball team plays.

Proposed upgrades would include a new roof and improved locker rooms. The preliminary budget from the project is just under $3 million.

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