VSU missing more than $1.2 in school inventory

By Curt Autry - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

ETTRICK, VA (WWBT) - NBC12 conducted an investigation that focused on missing inventory in colleges and found hundreds of thousands of dollars in missing inventory at local universities.

Many of us went to college at a time when a professor could get by with a black-board, but those days are gone.  Universities buy millions in electronics with your tax dollars -- things like laptops, iPads and big screen televisions.

But a  three-month NBC12 investigation reveals that many of these items are leaving campus, at an alarming rate.  And the person getting stiffed with the bill is you.

Virginia State University is a historically black and land-grant university, located in Ettrick in southern Chesterfield County.

At a time when many similar institutions are seeing sagging enrollment, VSU is growing. But this story isn't about what's coming onto campus, it's about what may be sneaking off, in the dead of night.

In December, NBC12 sent a request under the Freedom of Information Act for a list of all missing assets of Virginia State University, including, but not limited, to computers, office equipment, furniture, electronic devices and office equipment.

VSU sent back 30 pages of hundreds of missing assets from a recent audit.

Some of the missing items include: more than 350 laptop computers; hundreds of disk drives; 17 microscopes; four pianos; dozens of digital cameras and video cameras; more than a dozen big screen TVs -- many of them 52 inch -- a whirlpool tub;  dozens of trumpets; saxophones; trombones and clarinets. In fact, enough instruments to start your own marching band.  There are missing sewing machines, knitting machines and microwave ovens.

And the grand total from VSU's most recent list of un-located assets?  A whopping $1,201,072.87

That's an average of a hundred grand a month of your tax-dollars unaccounted for.

"The pianos that you mentioned -- of course we're not losing pianos," said Thomas Reed, VSU director of university relations.

Reed won't say that all this stuff has been stolen, or even misplaced...just unaccounted for, for right now.

Reed points to all of the construction on campus.  He says many items that started the year in one building got moved to another.  Things have been boxed up and moved to a warehouse -- other items are more than 10 years old, and got "surplused," or taken out of commission.

"A laptop may have gone into one office, that office has been moved to another office while the other office was under renovation and is now back there," he said. "So, there's a little bit of leg work involved, but we have a high level of confidence that we're going find the vast majority of this equipment."

But what about all of those big screen TVs & Nikon digital cameras.  Could they really just be in the wrong place?

CURT AUTRY: "If I can't find them on campus, my assumption would be, they're stolen.  Would that be the wrong assumption?"

THOMAS REED: "It would be the wrong assumption. Again, when we have reason to believe there has been foul play - we pursue it to the extent legally possible."

Since our initial inquiry, VSU has found more than $400,000 worth of the missing items, and they promise to continue to look.  And while $1,201,072.87 may seem like a lot of money to you and me, Reed wants you to know, that in the grand scheme of things, it really isn't.

"The list that you received accounts for only about 1% of the value of the assets on the campus.  So, while it may seem, at first blush, a large number -- within context, it's really a relatively small number," he said.

We sent an identical letter, requesting a list of missing assets, to Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU insisted that no such list exists, but that doesn't mean there was nothing missing.  We dug a little deeper, find out what we uncovered on the VCU campus, tonight at 11.

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