ASCMC President and CFO Resign Following $2000 of "Questionable Reimbursements"
ASCMC President Elliot Behling ‘19 and and Chief Financial Officer Philip (Whit) Lippincott ‘19 have resigned from their positions following an internal investigation of fraudulent receipts, according to an email sent out to the CMC community by Executive Vice President Maya Love ‘20 and President Pro Tempore Connor Bloom ‘19. Love, according to Article 7 Section 36d of the ASCMC Constitution, will serve as the Acting President “with all the powers and responsibilities of the President.” The investigation probe found that about $2,000 of student funds were misappropriated. In Behling’s resignation letter, he said he made ASCMC related purchases with his personal funds and failed to keep a proper proof of payment. In order to still be reimbursed, Behling substituted the real receipts with unrelated, unauthorized receipts for alternate transactions. He said that while his intentions were to ensure successful activities, he realizes that his intentions “do not justify the circumvention of our financial standards.”
The investigation concluded that Lippincott did not perpetrate fraudulent activities, nor had knowledge that they were fraudulent, according to his resignation letter. He said that nonetheless, the policies and procedures he oversaw allowed the fraudulent reimbursements to go undetected. "While I was thanked for my cooperation, thoughtfulness, and professionalism during the probe, and I was cleared of any direct involvement in the fraudulent conduct, I tender my resignation as Chief Financial Officer of ASCMC in hopes that ASCMC can move forward to carry out its mission to leave a positive impact on the Claremont McKenna College students," he said. Lippincott has been asked to complete ASCMC’s annual taxes and 990s. The Chief Financial Officer is a very important member of the Executive Board,” reads page 19 of the ASCMC handbook. “They are responsible for setting the financial course of ASCMC and is tasked with making sure that ASCMC follows responsible financial practices.”
Reimbursement requests from ASCMC are filed through FluidReview, an online application system also used by other CMC offices such as Career Services. To be reimbursed, a student must create a submission and enter Amount Requested for Reimbursement and Purchase Date, along with other basic applicant information. Another section instructs students to “attach the corresponding receipt or invoice. The receipt must be legible and have an item by item account.” It is possible that the information in the application was not verified by cross-referencing it to the receipt. Both Behling and Lippincott called for improvements to the financial management practices in their resignation letters.
In a statement to The Forum, CMC Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Basso said that the College is engaged with ASCMC as it examines its financial controls to ensure sound management of funds going forward. "For now, ASCMC will continue to determine the allocation of ASCMC funds, but the Dean of Students Office will administer the disbursement of those funds and will serve as additional oversight to ensure purchases are in accord with ASCMC and College policies." She added that she appreciated ASCMC's "immediate and conscientious response."
Vice President Basso also noted that although ASCMC is an independent entity with a 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit, the College has an interest in ASCMC performance because the organization distributes the funds collected by the College. According to the ASCMC website, about $313,000, the bulk of the revenue, is collected from student fees yearly.
The Forum reached out to Love and Bloom regarding the contents of these false receipts, how the internal investigation was conducted, and whether disciplinary action would be taken. Both declined to comment for this article.
ASCMC Officers take office in March following Spring Break, and continue for a year. Behling was elected President in February with 57% of the vote, while Lippincott was appointed CFO by the Elections Committee this year and last.
The email in its entirety is copied below:
Subject: Important News Regarding ASCMC Leadership
Dear CMC Family,
As ASCMC Executive Officers we aim to advocate, support, and represent the CMC student body with respect, leadership, and integrity. Near the end of the academic year, some questionable activities of the Corporation of the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna were brought to the attention of Maya Love, Executive Vice President, and Connor Bloom, President Pro-Tempore, by CMC’s Dean of Students Office.
With the information that was presented, an internal investigation ensued in accordance with the ASCMC constitution. After reviewing the financial records and conducting interviews, our investigation of financial activity for this past academic year concluded that fraudulent receipts were submitted and processed for reimbursement. There were failures in ASCMC’s financial controls to prevent this unauthorized activity. The total amount of questionable reimbursements to students this academic year was approximately $2000.
President Elliot Behling and Chief Financial Officer Philip [Whit] Lippincott cooperated in our investigation and recognizing the obligations of those leadership roles, have resigned from their positions (letters attached). There were no misappropriations of funds, nor lack of oversight, by other board members. We have full confidence in the ASCMC Executive Board to fulfill their duties that best serve CMC.
These issues extend beyond the actions of a few individuals and highlight the need for systemic reforms in procedures. We take this as a significant opportunity to examine how we can improve our financial structure by making improvements on getting reimbursements out in a timely manner, increasing checks and balances on financial submissions, and empowering our officers in reviewing finances more closely.
Moving forward, as outlined in the ASCMC procedures, Maya Love will be taking on the role and responsibilities of President and Chair of the Corporation of the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College, effective immediately. Our current Treasurer, Max Dawson, has agreed to assist with the responsibilities of the CFO role until we can conduct an official appointment process.
While Article 7, Section 38, Subsection (b) of the ASCMC constitution states that the President Pro-Tempore should take over the duties of the Executive Vice President should they be unable to fulfill them, we believe that it is in the best interests of the Corporation and its shareholders for Connor Bloom to remain as President Pro-Tempore to help guide the corporation through a smooth transition period.
Therefore, there will be three openings within ASCMC’s Executive Board in the upcoming fall semester: Executive Vice President (EVP), Chief Financial Officer, and Freshman Class President. The process for special appointment of a new CFO and the special election for EVP will be announced in the future.
The intentions of ASCMC will always be to ensure that student fees are disbursed and used appropriately and that the student body is represented with integrity and inclusiveness. We are working with the Dean of Students Office on these efforts. In the immediate term, ASCMC will continue to determine the allocations of funds, and the Dean of Students Office will administer the disbursement of those funds to improve the timeliness of reimbursements and compliance with ASCMC and College policies.
We will continue to carry forward the momentum of this past year’s multitude of very successful programs and events. As always, ASCMC is for students, by students.
All the best,
Maya Love & Connor Bloom
ASCMC President and Chair/ ASCMC President Pro-Tempore
*The above email reflects the change of Max Fine to Max Dawson as sent out by Maya Love and Connor Bloom following the initial announcement.
The resignation letters are attached below:
This article will be updated as more information comes in.
Updated 7:15 pm to include details of reimbursement process.
Updated 9 pm with Vice President Sharon Basso's statement.