A former University of Connecticut diversity official has been fined $20,000 after an ethics panel determined she awarded her husband a $54,000 fellowship he did not apply for and was not eligible to receive.
Former graduate diversity officer Charmane Thurmand designated her husband, Martinus Evans, as a fall 2016 fellowship recipient, according to the Associated Press (AP). As graduate diversity officer, Thurmand assisted the graduate school in awarding diversity fellowships. She told the graduate school dean the decision had been approved by an independent selection committee.
Thurmand’s husband was ineligible because he did not have the required degree. An audit found that he did not apply for the fellowship, according to NBC Connecticut.
Thurmand also directed that her husband be hired as a graduate assistant but not be required to do any work, ensured he would be paid, ordered he receive a $2,000 fellowship the summer after his graduate program ended and directed his academic department to contact her with any questions about his or the fellowship’s status, the Hartford Courant said.
The Connecticut Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board found that Thurmand’s husband received over $53,000 in financial gains from the graduate school through tuition waivers, cash stipends, graduate assistant pay and other benefits, despite not being authorized by UConn to receive the fellowship or other benefits, according to the Courant.
The board fined Thurmand on Thursday after four days of hearings. Her $20,000 fine was the maximum the board could impose, the Courant said.
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said Thurmand was hired in 2012 and resigned in February 2017 after being placed on administrative leave while the university’s investigation was underway.
“When UConn became aware of potential misconduct on the part of this employee, the university investigated and, upon conclusion of the investigation, took swift action by moving to initiate disciplinary proceedings,” Reitz said. “The employee in question resigned before that could take place. The decision by the state’s Ethics Advisory Board is entirely appropriate and in keeping with UConn’s own findings in this matter.”
Thurmand has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against UConn, according to NBC Connecticut. Her attorney, James Brewer, told the Associated Press he was not surprised by the ethics panel’s decision and called it a case of racial discrimination.
“The State of Connecticut Ethics Commission consists of political appointees and is a government apparatus that has simply continued the racial discrimination initiated by the defendant University of Connecticut,” Brewer said. “A real trial will occur in the United States District Court where my client’s racial discrimination suit is pending.”
Gabriella DeBenedictis is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.