KSU Farm to Table Program under fire
KENNESAW, Ga. - The lawyer for a Kennesaw State University secretary claimed he has evidence of kickbacks and fraud inside the school's highly-regarded Dining Services division.
The allegations came in a demand letter sent to the school asking for $1.5 million to avoid a lawsuit from a secretary who claimed she has been mistreated since the FOX 5 I-Team first revealed questionable behavior inside the department.
"The enterprise that's being run at Kennesaw State University, taxpayers should be alarmed," attorney Mike Puglise told FOX 5 I-Team reporter Randy Travis. "It's pathetic."
"Do you think KSU really wants to know the truth here?"
"Nah, no, no," Puglise responded. "They want to stick their head in the sand and pretend this isn't happening."
Puglise shared with the FOX 5 I-Team what he already sent KSU and the GBI: evidence he claimed proved former school culinary services director Gary Coltek was secretly being paid on the side by KSU vendors, plus documents that raised questions about how much food was really grown at the KSU owned and operated farm.
"It's a complete fabrication of the numbers," Puglise stressed. "It's home cooking the books."
Student volunteers help run Hickory Grove Farm a few miles from the KSU main campus. The food grown at the farm eventually winds up at Kennesaw State University. The idea of farm to table gave the school a national reputation.
And riding that reputation was the school's star culinary services director. Coltek suddenly resigned in September after the FOX 5 I-Team began asking questions about his outside business dealings... and why he was using his secretary Tracy Nunn to do his private work on KSU time.
"I just did the work that was required of me as my job duties at KSU as instructed by Gary Coltek," Nunn said when we knocked on her door to ask why her name was listed as the registered agent for one of Coltek's companies.
Coltek managed millions of tax dollars at the school. Using his secretary to do private work was the latest in a string of questionable decisions stretching back years.
Yet until the FOX 5 I-Team began investigating, Coltek always kept his job, prompting the state Attorney General's office to ask the GBI to also investigate KSU administrators for failing to act.
"Employees have been coming forward since your investigation," Puglise pointed out. "Have been calling, sending me emails... with other information."
That included Harvest logs at the KSU Farm from August of 2015. They listed how many pounds of each vegetable was supposedly transferred to the school dining facilities. But on multiple places, the weights listed on the transfer form did not match the weight from the actual Harvest logs.
4.5 pounds of zucchini harvested from a specific location... suddenly became 45 pounds on the transfer form.
7.5 pounds of green peppers harvested... yet 75 pounds of green peppers supposedly delivered.
In his letter to the school, attorney Puglise called this another example of "criminal activity" committed by Coltek and his farm manager Robin Taylor. She had little to say to the FOX 5 I-Team.
"You know the allegation was that you were cooking the books by claiming that you were growing more food and delivering more food than you really were growing out here."
Taylor: Please contact KSU's media relations.
"These are serious allegations. You realize that. I want to make sure you have a chance to respond because you're named in this allegation."
Taylor: Well, I'm sure KSU legal will handle that for me."
KSU had no comment and would not answer any questions.
Attorney Puglise said his client was passed over for a raise, while others connected to Gary Coltek, including that farm director Robin Taylor, have actually been promoted since our investigation aired.
His letter asks for $1.5 million to avoid a whistleblower lawsuit.
"That's the only way I know to get KSU's attention," warned Puglise.