- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Trustees for the University of the District of Columbia are calling on the school’s leaders to provide more information about the theft of financial files that coincided with news media inquiries about the hiring of the new provost and renovations on the president’s house.

Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, a member of UDC’s Board of Trustees, yesterday said the missing files — which UDC officials have been unable to provide information about — should be reproduced and made public.

“If you have documents on paper, generally it is from a computer, so you would think the documents can be replaced,” said Mr. Kinlow, executive director of the Washington East Foundation, a nonprofit grant-making group. “There is no evidence that the computer or the university’s [computer] server were stolen, so there should not be a problem reproducing those documents.”

Others on UDC’s 15-member Board of Trustees, who asked not to be identified, expressed concerns similar to Mr. Kinlow’s.

The Washington Times first reported on Friday that financial records were reported stolen July 11 from Accounting Operations Manager Mark Lassiter’s cubicle-style office on the third floor of UDC Building No. 38.

The stolen files contained documents regarding the school’s payroll, the financial affairs of UDC President William L. Pollard and expenses in renovating his home, and other executive spending, according to a staffer familiar with the finance department, where the theft occurred.

At the time of the theft, The Times was inquiring about Mr. Pollard’s hiring of family friend Wilhelmina M. Reuben-Cooke as provost and vice president of academic affairs. In addition, WAMU-FM (88.5) was inquiring about the school’s expenses on the remodeling of Mr. Pollard’s home, estimated at more than $100,000.

University officials have said campus police are investigating the disappearance of the files, but have yet to determine whether the files are stored in a computer.

Mr. Kinlow yesterday said he hopes Mr. Pollard and his staff will continue to work on clearing up any perception of evasiveness over the missing records.

Robert T. Robinson, vice president for public safety and emergency management, who reports directly to Mr. Pollard, is leading the investigation. UDC communications director Mark Andrews said Mr. Robinson would not comment on the internal investigation.

Campus police reported the theft July 15 to Metropolitan Police, who were discouraged by university officials from investigating until an internal probe is completed. No other items were taken from Mr. Lassiter’s office, according to a school official familiar with the incident. No other offices or cubicles were burglarized.

It could not be determined whether the theft of the files is linked to inquiries by The Times into the hiring of Mrs. Reuben-Cooke, who started her new job July 15.

The Times first reported July 11 that Mr. Pollard had hired her for the $137,000-a-year job even though she lacked the requisite experience and education for the post. Mrs. Reuben-Cooke is married to D.C. lawyer Edmund Cooke, who helped Mr. Pollard secure his $200,000-a-year job at the university.

It also could not be determined whether the theft is linked to reports on “The D.C. Politics Hour” on WAMU-FM about expenditures on Mr. Pollard’s university home. WAMU first reported about the remodeling expenses on June 27.

According to a campus police report, a UDC police officer observed a handprint on the wall inside Mr. Lassiter’s cubicle and a footprint on the outer wall of his office, which has a door and wall dividers. The officer said the prints indicated that someone may have climbed over the divider to enter the cubicle.

The Times obtained a copy of the police report.

Mr. Lassiter, who had the only key to the office, did not know when the theft occurred. He last saw the documents July 1, before he went on vacation until July 7. He didn’t notice they were gone until July 11, according to the report.

Mr. Lassiter has declined to comment. As the university’s accounting operations manager, he oversees accounts payable, payroll and financial reporting, and helps draft the university’s year-end comprehensive financial reports.

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