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2 NDUS employees put on administrative leave

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Two upper level employees have been placed on paid administrative leave by the North Dakota University System.

Chief Auditor Timothy Carlson and Chief Compliance Officer Kirsten Franzen are both on leave, NDUS spokeswoman Linda Donlin confirmed.

Chief of Staff Murray Sagsveen notified the two Monday that Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen was putting them on leave with cause. Carlson reports to the State Board of Higher Education and Franzen reports to Sagsveen.

Attempts to reach Carlson Tuesday evening went unanswered and Franzen declined to comment.

Carlson was placed on leave due to the findings of an investigation requested by Sagsveen Aug. 22. The investigation was handled by the Village Business Institute, a division of Fargo's Village Family Service Center that works with companies and individuals to improve business performance.

About a dozen people, including SBHE employees, were interviewed because "anonymous individuals contacted members of the SBHE to allege that Mr. Carlson had provided misleading and incorrect information to the SBHE," the report said.

The report concludes that Carlson misled his employers about his work experience during the November 2013 interview for his position and didn't provide consistent answers concerning businesses he had either worked for or tried to start.

The Grand Forks-based Director of Internal Audit Tim Rerick and Fargo-based Internal Auditor Eric Miller even reached out to SBHE Chairwoman Kirsten Diederich and voiced concerns about Carlson's qualifications.

"They felt he wasn't qualified to be the Chief Auditor and that he falsified his work history," Diederich is quoted as saying in the report.

The report also states there is "sufficient evidence" Carlson altered his LinkedIn account after his background was questioned.

Carlson repeatedly stated information found on the Internet concerning his past business ventures wasn't credible, although "the documents he provided to support his statements were printed from the Internet," according to the report.

But in September, Carlson was nonetheless given a salary increase.

"This was an investigation that was handed to an external agency to do, so until that investigation was complete, Mr. Sagsveen really couldn't make any comment about his raise," Donlin said.

Donlin couldn't verify Carlson or Franzen's salaries after business hours.

Carlson will be terminated at the Nov. 20 SBHE meeting after an Audit Committee recommendation in accordance with board policy, according to the letter.

Franzen's notice states she was placed on leave for several reasons including "unprofessional" conduct after being told she could potentially be reassigned to the system's Core Technology Services.

"It is also my understanding that -- in a public establishment and in the presence of at least one other person (not employed by NDUS) -- you informed Linda Donlin that you would not accept a reassignment to CTS, that you want to report directly to the SBHE, and that you would like a severance package in exchange for a resignation," Sagsveen wrote in the letter.

The notice also states she was placed on leave for failing to perform her duties, not setting up fraud awareness training, not establishing trust with clients and misinforming an audit committee, among other reasons.

She is also accused of refusing to accept that she did not answer directly to the board.

"The chancellor has advised he does not trust you," Sagsveen said in the letter. "I do not trust you."

Franzen has held her position with the NDUS since Nov. 2012, according to her LinkedIn account. She has until Nov. 17 to submit documentation and request a per-termination review.