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Report: Texas athletic academic adviser approved purchases from store she owns

A top athletic academic advisor reportedly approved more than $20,000 of purchases from her own store. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images) A top Texas athletic academic advisor reportedly approved more than $20,000 of purchases from her own store. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The top academic adviser in the University of Texas athletic department has used school funds to purchase office decor for the department from an antique store she owns, as reported by Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman.

Documents obtained by the American-Statesman through the Texas Public Information Act reveal Randa Ryan and other staff members used 22 purchase orders from April 2007 to July 2013 to buy decor items from The Old Mill Store, co-owned by Ryan and her husband, Stephen Klepfer.

All the purchase orders -- including 16 pillows for $2,503 -- were approved by Ryan.

Findings in the report include:

The UT athletic department paid Claim Processing Solutions Inc., doing business as Old Mill Store, a total of $20,454.30 for items including desk lamps, mirrors, framed newspaper articles and at least 25 pillows. 

The University of Texas handbook on purchasing call for “every effort will be made” to make sure the university receives the best pricing.

Section 7.3 on ethics specifically addresses self-dealing. “An employee may not transact any business in an official capacity with any business entity of which the employee is an officer, agent, or member, or in which the employee owns a substantial interest,” the handbook states. According to the documents, no attempt was made to seek other price bids on those items.

Ryan personally filled out and approved multiple purchase request forms, filling in her name, email and contact information and signing on the supervisor’s approval line.

Space is permitted for someone to contact three vendors. On every form, whether Ryan completed them or someone else did, Old Mill Store is the only vendor listed, according to the documents.

Among the purchases made at Ryan’s store, the most expensive was $4,865 for a desk and rug on Oct. 28, 2009. The university was charged $3,250 for a “Medina Writing Desk” and $4,515 for a rug. According to an invoice, Old Mill Store gave a $1,300 discount on the desk and a $1,600 discount on the rug. With that discount, the total of that purchase order fell below the $5,000 threshold for which competitive quotes are not required.

Nick Voinis, a spokesman for the Texas athletic department, said the purchases were all acceptable and pointed to Section 7.4 in the UT purchasing handbook.

For purchases up to $5,000, it says, “Competitive quotes are encouraged but not required. A department may solicit a quotation from a single source and issue a purchase order at the department’s discretion.” For purchases over $5,000, at least three competing quotes must be obtained.
Ryan, an executive senior associate athletic director, earns an annual salary of $200,000 from Texas, according to a public database of state salaries reported by the Texas Tribune.

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