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UC Cash Used for Personal Expenses

September 01, 2006|From the Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A former associate vice chancellor at UC Berkeley misspent almost $2,000 of university funds on personal expenses such as meals and hotel rooms, according to an audit released Thursday.

George Strait, who has repaid the money, was a onetime ABC News correspondent hired by UC Berkeley in January 2003 to oversee public affairs. He was often the university's point person on news stories, including a hacker attack on university computers last summer.

University auditors, tipped off by a whistle-blower, obtained documents for Strait's travel and entertainment expenses from when he was hired until February 2006. The audit found that 28 reimbursed expenses totaling $1,969.72 were improper.

In a statement released through attorney John L. Burris, Strait said that he "owned up to these mistakes, expressed my sincere regret and immediately reimbursed the university."

Strait delivered three checks to the university, the last on June 19, that repaid all the expenses, according to the audit.

The university began a comprehensive audit after Strait admitted that some expenses from an Atlanta trip and an Oakland lunch were personal.

Of 39 entertainment reports reviewed, about half were improper, according to the audit.

Among the improper expense reimbursements noted in the audit was a $240.20 plane ticket for a friend; a $192.50 charge logged as a business dinner with four guests that was actually spent on a hotel room for personal use; and the cost of three restaurant gift certificates worth a total of $265 that Strait donated to his church. The gift certificate expenses were reported as business meals.

Strait went to "great lengths to falsify entertainment expenses as business related," the audit said.

Strait was ABC's chief medical correspondent before joining the university. He resigned from UC Berkeley in May after he was placed on paid leave.

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