University President Admits Lack of Judgment in Hiring Felon

By Michael Klazema on 8/20/2012

Following the arrest of a former accountant, the President of the Mississippi University for Women, Dr. Jim Borsig, admits that an unreliable hiring policy was to blame for the nearly $30,000 embezzled from the university’s foundation. Cynthia “Jeannie” Godbey was arrested and charged with embezzlement after an internal audit indicated there were possible financial misdeeds related to the MUW Foundation. Godbey was hired in 2009 to oversee the $37 million endowment belonging to the Foundation, without a background check. After Godbey’s arrest, it was discovered she was a convicted felon, previously charged with several instances of financial misconduct.

When Godbey was hired, the university had recently begun performing background checks, but only for employees in management or those working with children full-time. University officials are not blaming the background check company they use for the mistake, as the university takes the blame for not submitting Godbey’s information to them. Godbey started out employed part-time, later transitioning to a full-time employee, but her position never required a background check or official employment application. Borsig said that by the time of Godbey’s arrest, the university was already looking into tightening background check requirements to make them mandatory for all benefits-eligible employees. According to Borsig, the tougher requirements go beyond Godbey’s position, and are about ensuring the “campus community is safe” and they are “hiring people that [they] want to be part of this university community.” Borsig believes the new hiring procedures are “ironclad” and will do more than only protect the university from embezzlement. “We value our reputation,” he said.

In 1991, Godbey was previously arrested and convicted on two counts of embezzlement. Although she was sentenced to five years of probation and five years in jail, the jail sentence was revoked. A year later she was convicted for false pretense, facing three counts, and arrested in 1999 for a probation violation. She is awaiting trial for her current charges. According to Borsig, the embezzled funds will not affect scholarships or endowment money, as it was involving expense reimbursements. The university is currently seeking to be reimbursed from its insurance provider.

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