Audit finds Clark College leader had no part in lease

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

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Clark College whistleblower report

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The State Auditor’s Office has investigated a November 2013 whistle-blower complaint asserting that Clark College President Bob Knight allowed a private company to lease the culinary arts kitchen for a nominal fee, resulting in a financial gain for the private company. The report found the college did lease the kitchen and could have charged more, but didn’t find any evidence Knight was involved in the lease.

According to a May 27 report, the auditors found “the college leased its kitchen to a private company for a nominal fee, but found no reasonable cause to believe the president (Knight) allowed this to occur. We were unable to determine which college employee authorized its kitchen to be leased for the nominal fee.”

According to the audit report, “President Knight said that he did not have any involvement with the contract other than telling the vice president of instruction that the institute was interested in leasing the space.”

In September 2013, Clark College agreed to lease its kitchen to Northwest Culinary Institute, a for-profit school, from Sept. 30, 2013, to May 23, 2014, Mondays through Fridays, for six and one-half hours each night. The lease period was 32 weeks, not counting holidays and scheduled breaks.

The college leased the kitchen to Northwest Culinary Institute for $2,500, which equates to $78.13 per week or $2.40 per hour over 32 weeks. But according to the auditor’s report, the college could have charged at least $8,800.

An additional charge of $5,440 for daily cleaning fees also was included in the lease, but the institute was charged only for the actual cleaning hours, which totaled $1,942 through February.

The college’s contract with Northwest Culinary Institute has been completed and will not be renewed, said Chato Hazelbaker, a Clark College spokesman.

The kitchen, which is in Gaiser Hall, had been used by Clark’s culinary arts students, but that program was put on hiatus last year so the curriculum could be revamped.

“Our intention was to start the program up again in the fall,” said Hazelbaker, “but we’re still looking at feasibility studies.”