Audit report details findings following ETSU director firing

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – We’re learning new details about an internal audit investigation at East Tennessee State University that resulted in the firing of an employee accused of questionable spending.

The ETSU Board of Trustees’ Audit Committee held a meeting Friday morning.

News Channel 11 obtained a full report that details the findings of an audit investigation about the now former director for the Center for Academic Achievement.

In Friday’s discussion – it was revealed that an anonymous tip sparked the investigation.

Robert Russell is accused of spending thousands of dollars on personal items over a seven year span that ended in February 2019.

The audit findings reveal Russell made more than $17,000 worth of personal purchases using a university credit card.

Those purchases include music equipment, guitar pedals and even subscriptions to iTunes.

The report also said Russell purchased miscellaneous items like a security camera, talking “plush toy,” a Harry Potter Learning to Code kit, clothing and other items.

The report also notes Russell failed to report more than 800 hours of annual sick leave from August 2015 to January 2019 – totalling nearly $30,000.

“We were following proper procedures, but maybe we need to strengthen those a little bit to help ensure this being caught quicker,” Internal Audit Director Becky Lewis said.

We’ve also learned that Russell ran for Congress against Tennessee First District Congressman Phil Roe back in 2008.

The audit case is now in the hands of ETSU Public Safety.

“Our public safety office is working with the criminal justice side in order to pursue whatever the next path may be,” ETSU President Dr. Brian Noland said.

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