Budget Officer Claims College Juggled Books

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) – West Chester University in Pennsylvania fired its chief budget officer for refusing to hide a financial surplus so the school could get more state money, she claims in court.
     Colleen Bradley sued the college, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and six top administrators on whistleblower and civil rights charges on May 14 in Federal Court.
     She claims the defendants fired her after she refused to present a “misleading” budget that falsely reported deficits at an annual meeting.
     Bradley claims the university’s assets increased by about $56.6 million during the three fiscal years she worked there. She claims administrators asked her to mask this increase by transferring it into a facilities maintenance fund.
     The university, which is part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, received more than $146 million in tax money in those three years, the complaint states – far more than what it would have received if not for the defendants’ “year-after-year scheme to understate actual operating surpluses to increase taxpayer-funded appropriations.”
     Bradley accuses the university of “squirreling” away the surplus as it prepared to buy additional land and buildings.
     Bradley was hired as director of budget and financial planning in 2011. She says she received positive performance evaluations until she expressed unease with the lack of “transparency” in proposed budgets.
     She claims she told her immediate supervisor Mark Mixner and other defendants that she could not “in good conscience” participate in “the false, deceptive and manipulated budgets submitted by the defendants to the Commonwealth “in spite of being “repeatedly bullied and coerced to do so.”
     Mixner was the school’s vice president of administration and chief financial officer.
     Bradley says she was told at a meeting in November 2014 that her tenure with West Chester (WCU) would end in June 2015. She says she was told that the university needed “a different type of leadership,” but this was “a complete fabrication intended to mask the WCU defendants’ retaliation against Ms. Bradley’s exercise … of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.”
     West Chester University spokeswoman Pam Sheridan said: “It is the general practice of the university not to comment on personnel matters or details of pending litigation. The university, however, vigorously denies Ms. Bradley’s allegations and believes her legal claims to be without merit.”
     Bradley, who is on medical leave, seeks damages of more than $150,000 for whistleblower and civil rights violations, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     She is represented by Edward Mazurek.

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