WASTE WATCHAlleged Scam
from Eyewitness News Online
Former FSU Administrator Accused Of Stealing State Money
October 24, 2013
As Vice President and Chief Information Officer, David Tamm was a member of Fairmont State University's inner circle. He sat in on regular meetings with the president and other top officials, charting the school's course. But federal documents allege Tamm stole nearly $650,000 over several years, and the actual amount could be much higher.
In January 2013 a Fairmont State employee complained to superiors about improper use of a purchasing card. That kicked off a series of events which led to Tamm's suspension on Jan. 28 and his termination on April 5.
"We originally were made aware of this situation through a comment by an employee who had some suspicions of some improprieties occurring in that department," Chief Jack Clayton of the Fairmont State University Police Department said. "At that point, we met with our finance and administration folks. did an initial investigation and found that there was some suspicious activity."
Federal documents show the government, even without charges or a conviction, went after Tamm to forfeit his home, where police executed a search warrant when the accusations of misconduct first surfaced nine months ago. The U.S. attorney for the northern district of West Virginia alleges Tamm committed mail and wire fraud over the course of several years.
This complaint alleges Tamm used his state government purchasing card to buy internet switches, which are used to connect computers. He then allegedly sold those switches for nearly $650,000.
However, sources close to the investigation tell Eyewitness News auditors have found Tamm's alleged scheme brought him more than a million dollars from the sale of various types of state-purchased technology before it was shut down.
"The purchasing card was purely a payment mechanism," West Virginia Auditor Glen Gainer said. "The fraud actually occurred by the person's position, and also the rules within the higher education on purchasing and also their inventory rules is really what aided the fraud."
This situation has been bubbling in Fairmont for more than a year. In fact, the allegations hang like a cloud over the entire Fairmont State community. Students said they expect much better behavior for their school's leaders.
"I definitely expect honesty from all of the administration," Mickala Maditz, a Fairmont State University student, said. "I expect guidance when I need it. And I expect somebody to be there, even on a personal level, having somebody there to talk to, that's definitely what I expect from them."
Gainer said it's difficult to catch someone breaking the rules if the are in a position of authority and trust. However, he said, eventually, the system will find them.
"Anytime though, you have someone who is at a very high level it makes it extremely more difficult to catch," Gainer said. "Because, once again, it's at such a high level. And the fact, too, when you're directing subordinates, sometimes subordinates may scratch their head but they're a little nervous about blowing the whistle."
Sources at Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community and Technical College told Eyewitness News that Tamm's alleged scheme could have been uncovered sooner had the university acted on a number of red flags surrounding him, including two human resources complaints alleging Tamm was behaving erratically, which were not acted upon.
However, a university spokeswoman said, as soon as news of Tamm's possible questionable activity came to light, the school acted quickly to look into the situation and relieve him of his duties.
The Higher Education system operates under different purchasing and inventory rules than every other state agency. Bid minimums are higher and items valued at less than $5,000 are not necessarily entered into an inventory system. Those factors may have contributed to the long-term operation and success of Tamm's alleged scheme.
"The controls that they have built around that limit, at least in the case of Fairmont, failed," Gainer said. "Now, if they failed at Fairmont there's a possibility that it could be failing elsewhere as well."
The chancellor of the Higher Education Policy Commission said anytime theft or fraud occurs, financial experts review what happened to see if changes need to be made to stop future theft.
"I think in those situations we're always gonna go back and look," Paul Hill, the Chancellor of the H.E.P.C. said. "We're always going to go back and review whatever reports come out of this. And we're always going to take out additional assurances, if they are warranted. If we see a pattern, if we can see where the rules might need to be improved then we have no trouble making those types of recommendations to the legislature that the rules be changed."
Tamm's alleged crimes amount to more than just stolen money. He also violated the trust of his co-workers and the students he promised to serve. And it is that trust which may ultimately take longer to repair than any auditor's tally sheet.
There are some interesting nuggets in the Verified Complaint For Forfeiture filed by the U.S. Attorney.
In the document, while talking with the FBI, Tamm disclosed that his doctor told him "he wasn't a bad person, he had just made bad decisions."
Tamm also told the FBI agent he was in the process of fixing up a relative's home, so his wife and children would have a place to stay while he was "gone".
It is important to note that as of today, no criminal charges have been filed against David Tamm.
However, sources tell Eyewitness News the U.S. Attorney has prepared a plea agreement in this case that is awaiting Tamm's signature.
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