Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave - From the Atlanta Constitution:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/22/08

Two former Georgia Tech professors under state investigation for fraud paid out more than $80,000 in Tech money to a family member in consulting fees, according to documents released by Georgia Tech.

Francois Sainfort, formerly an associate engineering dean, and Julie Jacko, a professor in the school of biomedical engineering, are locked in a dispute with Georgia Tech over their departure to high-level positions at the University of Minnesota and whether payments to Jacko's brother were improper or unethical.

Georgia Tech officials have turned the case over to the state Attorney General's office for investigation, focusing on possible double billing of the two schools for expenses and on the payments to Jacko's brother.

Sainfort and Jacko are experts in the field of health informatics, a speciality that focuses on analyzing huge amounts of computer-generated medical data. Sainfort served as director of Tech's Health Systems Institute, which brings in millions of dollars in research grants.

According to documents, HSI routinely paid thousands of dollars to Robert Jacko, Julie Jacko's brother, for helping collect data for the institute.

Robert Jacko, who holds a master of business administration degree, according to invoice documents, was paid $88,000 between June 2006 and January 2007. Checks were made out to Jacko listing the address of a UPS store off West Paces Ferry, down the street from where Sainfort and Julie Jacko lived. Their Buckhead house is now on the market for $1.6 million.

Phyllis Brooks, who was Sainfort's executive assistant, signed off on the payments to Robert Jacko, according to check-request forms provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state's Open Records Act.

Robert Jacko did not returns calls to his cellphone.

Tech officials have charged that the powerful couple accepted jobs at the University of Minnesota and double-billed Tech for expenses, falsifying travel and reimbursement documents for a period of months. Minnesota officials say the couple's contracts date to October 2007.

In an e-mail to Georgia Tech associate engineering dean John Leonard in February, Sainfort said he and his wife had formally requested a leave of absence from Tech beginning May 15, 2008.

"Between now and then, we will travel from time to time to Minnesota for the transition," he wrote, adding that his workload for the semester was "completely full, with a class, four Ph.D students ..."

In the February e-mail, Leonard cautioned Sainfort against confusion over the schedule. "Please make sure that neither you and Julie are on the payroll at Minnesota, even at a small percentage. This could cause problems," he wrote.

Sainfort said in an e-mail in response that he and his wife had "not even signed an employment contract yet."

But the couple had already begun working full-time for the University of Minnesota at that time, according to documents. Mark Rotenberg, the general counsel for the U of M, said the couple's compensation and contracts at Minnesota began Oct. 1.

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