Ladner Suspended During AU Audit

By Allan Lengel and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, August 25, 2005

American University President Benjamin Ladner was suspended yesterday pending the outcome of an audit of his personal and travel expenses, the university announced.

In a brief statement last night, Leslie E. Bains, chair of the university's board of trustees, said Ladner, 63, had been placed on administrative leave. Cornelius M. Kerwin, the university's provost, will become interim president.

"Earlier this month it was announced that the board of trustees authorized a review of the personal and travel expenses in one department," Bains said in the statement. "That review continues using outside counsel and outside auditors."

David E. Taylor, Ladner's chief of staff, said that he wasn't sure what triggered the suspension but that the board had determined that "this would be the best thing for now." Officials did not know how long the investigation is likely to last. Ladner will be paid during the suspension, authorities said.

Taylor characterized the probe as an internal matter and said no law enforcement agencies were involved.

Last month, the university's board released a statement saying the probe was triggered by an anonymous letter received by several board members.

The letter, similar to one received by The Washington Post, alleged expense account violations by Ladner and his wife, Nancy Bullard Ladner, a source said.

According to the letter received by The Post, over a five year period, the Ladners charged the university for their son's engagement party, presents for their children, a personal chef, vacations in Europe, maintenance of their residence in Maryland, and wine that cost as much as $100 a bottle.

Taylor said he did not expect Ladner's suspension to harm the university. Students are returning to campus this week, and classes start Monday.

"The fact is, the board is taking it seriously," he said of the investigation. "They take their oversight role seriously."

University trustees reached last night declined to comment on the suspension, which was announced to students last night via e-mail.

Edward R. Carr, a trustee from Potomac, said that any comment must come from Bains, the board chair, and that she was out of town on vacation.

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