- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The former president of Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington spent nearly $36,000 in vending machine funds on personal expenses and nearly $3,000 extra to operate his leased car, a state audit released Tuesday said.

The report by state Auditor Beth Wood’s office urges the college to consult attorneys about whether it should sue former President Ted Spring to recover misappropriated funds. The school’s board of trustees said in a written response to the audit that they started that process last month.

Spring also spent $48,000 in unapproved pay raises, promotions and new positions for senior managers that should have had budget oversight by campus trustees, the report said.

The audit report validates a suspected “pattern of misappropriation of funds and deceptive practices” by Spring, the college’s board of trustees said in its response to the auditor’s report.

Spring resigned in January under pressure from campus trustees, who did not explain the president’s ouster. Spring filed a lawsuit in March claiming a violation of his employment contract. Spring was hired in November 2012 at a salary of $250,000 a year. That was raised to $268,000 annually months before his ouster.

Spring has no listed telephone number in Wilmington and could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Gary Shipman, said Spring did nothing wrong.

“Absolutely nothing referenced in the State Auditor’s report was done secretly, at Dr. Spring’s sole direction, or without the concurrence of others whose job that it is to insure that everything is done in accordance with policy,” Shipman said in a statement.

Spring “violated established policies” and “received inappropriate benefits” during his two years heading the college, auditors said. That included Spring using vending machines revenues - money that could be used for discretionary spending by the school - for club memberships, meals and his wife’s travel, the report said.

About $21,500 of Spring’s questioned personal spending came from leasing vehicles for himself and the athletic department, the report said. Spring obtained “a motor vehicle at the expense of the college that he was not entitled to under the Employment Agreement,” then used it at the school’s expense after trustees told him to return it, lawyers for the college trustees said in a response to the ex-president’s employment lawsuit.

Another $7,500 paid a public relations firm Spring hired “in response to negative media coverage concerning the expenses of the former president,” the auditor’s report said. Wilmington television station WECT last year broadcast a series of stories about Spring’s spending.

Auditors faulted the college for failing to adopt policies for proper use of vending funds, which generated an average of $172,000 in each of the past two years.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio

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