Former President Dale Whittaker included falsified information on his résumé when he applied to lead Iowa State University while provost at UCF in 2017, according to an employee's claims in recently released documents from the Florida House Public Integrity and Ethics committee.
Former Associate Vice President for Administration and Finance Lee Kernek said she filed an ethics complaint with the University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office.
Kernek told investigators about her role in the controversy surrounding the completion of Trevor Colbourn Hall, which included ensuring that facilities met safety requirements and standards. She said Whittaker did not participate in discussions or work related to her projects, despite his résumé stating otherwise.
"He takes credit for all of the funding things, as well as facilities and other things in his curriculum vitae," Kernek said in the deposition.
NSM Today reached out to the UCF Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office on Thursday evening, but received a response that its representative was out of office.
Upon asking for verification and more information on the complaint, UCF Communications Assistant Vice President Chad Binette said the audit office did not have the complaint from Kernek.
Binette added on Monday via email that "there was no ethics complaint filed with the University Compliance, Ethics and Risk office regarding President Whittaker’s resume."
According to Kernek’s testimony from the deposition, she came to realize Whittaker falsified information on his résumé when one of her employees walked into her office and dropped the résumé on her desk.
“You are not going to believe this," the employee said, according to Kernek.
Kernek’s department had previously submitted information to Whittaker’s office regarding the facilities under design and construction at UCF at his office’s request. Kernek’s testimony said the information was included verbatim on his résumé.
Kernek clarified that the information her office provided to Whittaker's office was correct, but Whittaker’s involvement was false and he should not have included it on his résumé.
“He had not done any work on any of those facilities, other than [spend] quite a bit of time on Trevor Colbourn Hall and on his office suite,” Kernek said in the deposition. “Other than that, he didn't work on any of the other facilities. And so looking throughout the résumé, it appeared he took credit for everything that happened at UCF during the time that he was there.”
Kernek said she contacted Board of Trustees member Dave Walsh and the University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office in light of this information.
NSM Today reached out to the UCF Board of Trustees Wednesday evening but did not receive a response.
Kernek said she spoke to Director of Compliance and Ethics Christina Serra and Chief Audit Executive Robert Taft, but did not contact Whittaker directly.
NSM Today reached out to Serra on Friday afternoon but was unable to reach her.
However, according to the same set of depositions that Kernek testified in, Taft said in his testimony that Kernek did not share any of those concerns with him.
“What I would have done in that situation — I believe, if she had, obviously I could not go to the president directly because he would be the accused individual,” Taft said in the deposition. “I would have reported that to the chair of the audit and compliance committee, and stated the situation. They have the authority to either instruct me to do that investigation — ‘me’ being internal audits — or they do have the authority to hire an external party to do that investigation, which they may have chose, given the sensitivity and the potential for conflict of interest. But that would have been my course of action, would be obviously not go to the person who was the subject of the report, but go to that other channel up the ladder.”
Kernek said Whittaker’s résumé and curriculum vitae completely changed following her actions. Whittaker, however, did not face punishment and was promoted to UCF’s president, Kernek said.
Whittaker was not able to be reached for comment.
Kernek claimed Whittaker also took credit for the building of Trevor Colbourn Hall and the university budget.
Whittaker fired Kernek during the fallout from the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner investigation into the misused funds for Trevor Colbourn Hall.
The university notified Kernek in the wake of the of news regarding the investigation that she could either face a pre-determination hearing to argue her case or resign without it being on her record, her attorney Charles Greene said.
On the same day, the university announced through Whittaker that she and three other administrators had been fired for misconduct. This decision and announcement came before Kernek had the five days to consider her decision, according to her deposition.
This complaint is not Kernek’s first instance of indicating Whittaker lied on his résumé. Documents released by the Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner investigation show a letter attached to an email she sent the firm regarding her ethics complaint, according to her lawyer Charles Greene.
“I do not believe that persons who have the responsibility to educate and help shape the lives of college students should fraudulently represent their credentials,” Kernek wrote in the letter. “Ironically, the matters that Dr. Whittaker falsified pertain to the alleged role he played in overseeing capital projects at UCF. After I complained, Dr. Whittaker changed his résumé and my complaint was covered up as part of the ‘Save the Dale’ campaign implemented by Chairman Marchena and others associated with the Board of Trustees.”
NSM Today reached out to Iowa State representatives Wednesday evening but did not receive a response.
NSM Today reached out to attorney Joseph Burby Wednesday night but did not receive a response.
This article was updated on 02/27/2019 to add Chad Binette's statement regarding Kernek filing a complaint with the office of Compliance, Ethics and Risk.
This is a developing news story. Check back with NSM Today for updates.