Sounds like just the kind of people we need here...
Tech says profs dashed, kept cash
By ANDREA JONES
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/19/08
Professors François Sainfort and Julie Jacko came to the Georgia Tech campus in 2000, lauded as leading experts in the field of health science engineering.
The tenured faculty members were lured away by the University of Minnesota in October.
But they didn't bother to tell Georgia Tech, according to Tech documents detailing a tenure revocation process. Tech renewed Sainfort's contract in October and Jacko's contract in January.
Georgia Tech officials now charge that the couple continued to collect paychecks, double-billing the school and falsifying travel and reimbursement documents, according to a news release.
Sainfort was associate dean of Tech's College of Engineering and head of Tech's Health Systems Institute, and Jacko was a professor in the School of Biomedical Engineering.
Tech issued a press release this week with details of the investigation, but did not name the professors. Sainfort and Jacko are named in tenure revocation documents requested by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state Open Records law.
The release says the case is under investigation by the state attorney general's office. To date, Tech officials say, the investigation has revealed about $100,000 in questionable activity.
The news came as a shock at the University of Minnesota, where the couple hold prestigious positions. "We're still trying to learn the facts on this," said university spokeswoman Mary Koppel.
Koppel said hiring the pair, recognized experts in the field of health informatics, was a coup for the school.
"We were quite happy to have recruited them," she said.
Sainfort, who has received millions of dollars in research grants and has written for more than 130 publications, accepted a position as head of the Division of Health Policy and Management in the University of Minnesota School of Public Health in October.
Sainfort was quoted in a news release issued by the Minnesota university in November: "The researchers within the school are known for combining traditional public health with new techniques and for working across disciplines. This approach is key to addressing public health issues in the United States and globally."
But according to documents from Georgia Tech, he had just signed an employment contract with Tech on Oct. 19. As associate dean, he was paid an annual salary of $235,440, with a travel budget of $7,000, according to the Georgia Departments of Audits and Accounts, which records state employees' salaries.
Software claim to fame
Julie Jacko, known for her research on human-computer interactions, signed an employment contract with Georgia Tech in January, months after she had started at Minnesota. At Tech, she was paid $167,000, with nearly $8,000 in travel compensation, according to records.
Her Minnesota faculty profile says she is a professor with the School of Nursing and director of the school's Institute for Health Informatics.
Jacko gained national attention for her work developing software for people with visual impairments. Inspired by her mother's own battle with blindness, she and other researchers worked to create computers that would aid those in need. She won a prestigious Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers grant and brought the project to Georgia Tech.
The couple did not return phone calls to their Atlanta or Minnesota numbers.
This week, Georgia Tech began the process of revoking the couples' tenure. Letters to Sainfort and Jacko charged "willful and intentional violation of Board of Regents and Georgia Tech policy" for accepting full-time employment elsewhere.
"Should criminal charges be brought against you arising from your actions, we will amend this statement of charges to include that as an additional basis for revocation of your tenure and termination of your employment," the letters state.
Georgia Tech spokesman James Fetig called the case an anomaly.
"This is an isolated case that does not reflect on the character of our outstanding faculty who, through their demonstrated integrity, daily earn the respect of their peers and society," he said.