Audit of accused professor finds no wrongdoing

BY SAM LANE | DECEMBER 17, 2010 7:30 AM

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An internal audit of the University of Iowa's Institute for Clinical and Translational Science — the department formerly directed by Professor Gary Hunninghake, who was arrested last spring — found no problems with the program or its operation.

According to documents acquired through a Daily Iowan records request, UI Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard asked for the audit, which the state Board of Regents conducted.

"The university is pleased the audit showed everything was in order," said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

The institute has been without its regular director since last April, when Hunninghake, 63, was arrested in Chicago and charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly telling police three men threatened and stabbed him when, authorities said, the wounds were actually self-inflicted.

The UI physician had been under investigation by UI police since April 22, and the UI put him on an annual paid leave of $360,668 the next day. The case was later closed, and on Dec. 2, university officials said they will not press any charges. The search warrants have been sealed at Hunninghake's request.

His attorney declined to comment on the status conference scheduled for next week.

Hunninghake is scheduled to appear for a status update on Dec. 20 in Cook County Circuit Court, and UI police have refused to disclose details on their own now-closed investigation.

Moore did not comment on whether the audit was requested because of Hunninghake's absence from the program. Instead, the audits are requested "at regular intervals as deemed necessary," he said.

"It's a routine process and a common business practice," Moore said.

Shortly after Hunninghake was placed on leave, the department was placed under the interim direction of Gary Rosenthal, a professor of internal medicine, Moore said. He said it's impossible to speculate about what the next steps will be for the leadership of the institute.

The audit looks at the travel expenses, salary, and purchases of the institute's director. Because the audit reviewed the time period between July 2008 and when the report was filed in October 2010, the inspection of the institute's director would include both Hunninghake and Rosenthal, Moore said.

"Analysis of processes validated that the institute's business processes are in place and operating as intended, and its internal controls are sufficient to mitigate areas of risk and ensure compliance with … award requirements and university policy," the document states.

Regent Robert Downer said he was satisfied with the findings.

"I'm pleased that there were no findings of anything out of line," Downer said.

Downer also said he isn't yet worried about the length of Hunnighake's leave or the amount of money he's receiving.

"In his case, where there is an ongoing matter, I don't think it has reached a period yet where it terribly disturbs me," he said.

Since 2005, 13 UI faculty members have been put on administrative leave and the university has spent nearly $1.5 million in their wages during that time. However, leave policies and duration are not cut-and-dried, UI officials said.

"[Leaves] are not something we do lightly," UI Associate Provost for Faculty Tom Rice said. "It's pretty serious. Each case is evaluated individually."

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