• Florida university fires 4 officials after spending probe

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    ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - A three-month probe into improper spending at Florida's largest university has resulted in the firing of four school administrators.

    University of Central Florida President Dale Whittaker announced on Friday that he had begun the process to terminate the four officials. His move came a day after an outside law firm hired by the school's trustees released the results of its investigation into university spending

    University trustees authorized the probe last year after state auditors discovered the Orlando-based school had spent $38 million to construct an academic building with state funds that were supposed to be used for operations. That discovery also prompted the Florida House to launch its own ongoing probe. The university chief financial officer was forced to resign shortly after the audit findings were revealed.

    The firm of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner interviewed more than 40 witnesses and reviewed thousands of documents. The probe ultimately discovered $85 million of projects had been built or were planning to be built with inappropriate money. But the investigation also concluded that no university employees personally profited from the use of the improper money.

    In an email Whittaker sent to university employees, he said he was "embarrassed" by what had happened.

    "What I saw was a broken culture in one of our areas where UCF's core values were not embraced," wrote Whittaker, who was selected as UCF's president in March 2018.

    With more than 60,000 students, UCF is the largest university in the state and among the largest in the nation.

    The law firm reported that Whittaker, who had been the university provost prior to his promotion, had been told the school was using the wrong money on construction projects. But the report concluded he had received "vague" and "arguably misleading" information from other university officials. The report also stated that Whittaker was not familiar with the restrictions associated with university operating accounts.

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