The College Post
The College Post -- Covering Higher Education in America

University of Kentucky Nabs Ex-Employees Over $256K Spending Spree

The University of Kentucky has revealed that two former employees, Stephanie Carpenter and Derita Graves, former administrative support workers at the school’s College of Education (CoE), stole $256,000 in institutions funds to pay for 84 iPhones, high-end tech equipment, and other travel and personal items.

Carpenter was caught when a university audit found that she had used her university procurement card to make the bulk of the purchases. By 2019, her spending had “become so rampant that the STEM department’s procard expenditures had increased nearly 300 percent over 2016.”

The internal audit office noticed that an alarming number of purchases were linked to the college’s Educational Leadership Department. After discovering that another administrative support person in the department, Graves, also happened to be trained by Carpenter, the audit moved to investigate her as well.

The two are no longer employed at the university and audit findings have been turned over to law enforcement.

Stephanie Carpenter

The University of Kentucky – Internal Audit analysis of transactions from the CoE revealed that a breakdown of Carpenter’s expenses involved over $240,000 on 84 iPhones, 55 MacBooks, and 22 iPads. Another $3,000 was spent on other high-tech equipment, $9,600 on travel expenses “including airfare, lodging, car rentals, and tools,” and $555 on other personal items purchased on Amazon.

Auditors found that Carpenter sought to resell many of the purchases.

Derita Graves

Graves was found to have spent nearly $1,000 on personal expenditures. Her expenses were for “books and jewelry, as well as a few nutritional supplements, a Bose speaker, and a flight that was presumably for a conference in Boston.”

Since Graves was aware that the documentation would not be reviewed when it was signed, she chose to omit supporting documentation for inappropriate expenses in the procard audits report entirely.

Reviewing Processes

While the college had a purchase approval process, it had not been followed up properly on multiple levels. Purchases could be made without obtaining pre-approval from superiors and travel expenditures were not properly monitored.

Lack of effective supervision made it possible for Carpenter and Graves to complete purchasing processes on their own and inadequate reconciliations helped the two escape detection. Moreover, IT assets were not well maintained, which meant that inventory audits were left incomplete and the IT team’s involvement in tech purchases was circumvented.

To prevent further abuse, university officials are considering multiple changes. One plan involves transferring direct oversight of the College of Education business office to the university provost’s office as well as re-evaluation and expansion of training for all university business officers.