American U. president fired over spending

American University’s board of trustees announced Monday night that Benjamin Ladner will not return as president of the Washington, D.C. school following a weeks-long investigation into allegations that he embezzled university funds for personal use.

Acting board Chairman Thomas A. Gottschalk made the announcement at a news conference Monday night, prompting cheers from a small group of students, according to the Washington Post.

The board of trustees began an investigation into Ladner’s spending after several members received an anonymous letter in July tipping them off to suspicious spending by the president and his wife.

Ladner, 63, was suspended with pay in late August while auditors examined roughly $500,000 worth of expenditures using university funds that he and his wife had used over the past three years.

Students at the school, who staged repeated protests since August demanding Ladner’s resignation, rallied with faculty on the main quad and outside the boardroom Monday, where the trustees met for eight hours in a closed-door meeting to review the investigation’s findings.

American University’s board of trustees was hotly divided over whether or not to fire Ladner, leading the board’s chairwoman to resign prior to the Monday meeting after some colleagues questioned her leadership.

The trustees have asked Ladner to reimburse the university $125,000 for expenses inappropriately charged to the school and pay taxes on an additional $398,000 in income for the past four years, Gottschalk said.

No decision has been made yet on Ladner’s severance package, which under his 1997 contract could include a year’s salary of over $800,000 and a position as the university’s best-paid professor.

“We feel good about the way the board came together and dealt with some very difficult issues,” Gottschalk told the Associated Press.

Ladner refused to comment Monday, but said during the investigation that expenditures not permitted under his contract were caused by accounting errors.

The board plans to authorize a search committee in November to recommend a replacement for Ladner. Provost Cornelius Kerwin will continue as the university’s acting president.

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