Tenn. comptroller’s office reports one finding in ETSU audit; state legislative committee extends board operations through 2027

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A new audit released by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found that East Tennessee State University management “did not design and implement internal controls to ensure the Clery daily crime log was accurate.”

The audit is similar to an accreditation review, according to information sent to the ETSU community by university president Dr. Brian Noland on Tuesday. The audit is part of the state’s checks on the state universities which have their own boards of trustees.

The Clery Act is part of the federal Title IX rules. It’s goal is to provide transparency around campus crime statistics and policy.

According to the audit report released Tuesday, errors included:

• 8 of 60 Clery daily crime log entries (13%) did not include the correct disposition for the reported crime;

• 11 of 60 Clery daily crime log entries (18%) did not include the correct incident time;

• 3 of 60 Clery daily crime log entries (5%) did not include the correct general location of the reported crime;

• 12 of 60 Clery daily crime log entries (20%) did not include the correct crime description; and

• 2 of 60 Clery daily crime log entries (3%) did not include the correct reported date of the alleged crime.

Tennessee Office of the Comptroller Aduit

State auditors also included a number of observations in the report, citing “their effect on the operations of the… Board of Trustees, the university, and the citizens of Tennessee.” Those include:

  • An ETSU Board committee conducted business during a meeting without a quorum…
  • The “Board allowed a nonmember and a nonvoting member to make and second motions on board and committee meetings”…
  • University management didn’t provide the suicide prevention plan to students, faculty and staff for the fall 2019 semester

The observations also include that “One ETSU Board committee conducted business without a quorum.” Based on this, the comptroller’s office is recommending the Tennessee General Assembly consider revision state code to require university board committee meetings be livestreamed and archived.

You can read the full comptroller’s report here.

Dr. Noland took part in a hearing with the Tennessee Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Education, Health and General Welfare at the state capitol Tuesday afternoon.

At the meeting, the subcommittee voted to extend operations through 2027. At that time, another audit and review will occur.

Following the meeting, Dr. Noland sent the following to the ETSU community, which addresses the audit finding and observations:

Dear ETSU community,

As you know, the passage of the FOCUS Act in 2016 transitioned the governance of East Tennessee State University from the Tennessee Board of Regents to a 10-member locally governed board.   Five other TBR universities were also moved under locally governed boards.  The ETSU Board of Trustees held its first meeting in March 2017 and oversees tuition and fee levels as well as the administration, curricula, program development and fiscal affairs.

This fall, each of the six Locally Governed Institutions (LGIs) in Tennessee, including ETSU, underwent a routine performance audit by the Tennessee Division of State Audit.  The audit was conducted to comply with the Tennessee Government Entity Review Law, known as the Sunset Law, which requires the joint Government Operations Committee to review each governmental entity at least once every eight years to determine whether the entity should be continued, restructured, or terminated.  While this was the first “sunset audit” performed specifically for ETSU, the institution has been part of these reviews in the past while governed by the Board of Regents.

The audit covered the period of July 1, 2016 to May 31, 2020 and included a review of internal controls and compliance with laws, regulations, policies, procedures and provisions of contract or grant agreements in the areas of board oversight and responsibilities; campus security and safety; mental health services; strategic plan and performance measures; and the administration of CARES Act: Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds. 

Overall, I am very pleased with the performance audit review of ETSU.  Earlier today, I joined the other LGI presidents at a hearing before the Tennessee General Assembly’s Joint Subcommittee for Education, Health and General Welfare to discuss the sunset audit.  It is my honor to share with the campus community that the Government Operations Joint Subcommittee on Education, Health and General Welfare voted unanimously to extend operations through 2027 at which time another audit and review will take place. 

This sunset audit is similar to an accreditation review, and specific to ETSU, only one finding was yielded, which pertained to internal controls over our Clery daily log.  This error presented no risk to nor impact on campus safety and security.  New personnel and processes are in place to ensure appropriate internal controls will be implemented.  Other observations from the audit were made on ways we might further enhance mental health services for students and improve Board processes.  

The audit reports for each of the six LGIs, including ETSU, is available on the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury website

Our move to having our own locally governed Board of Trustees has been a transformative chapter in the history of East Tennessee State University, and I thank each of you for the work you do to support our governing board and the operations of this university. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Brian Noland
President

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