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$500,000 In Ladner Spending Itemized
Ladner was suspended with pay in August as the investigation continued.
Trustees are debating whether his expenses were reasonable costs for a university president credited with improving the academics and reputation of the school and expected to court donors round-the-clock, were accounting disagreements that could be repaid, or were the last straw for a president who squandered money at a school where more than 90 percent of operating revenue comes from students.
Until the new report, no detailed accounting had been done of the Ladners' spending, even as bills came in for first-class tickets for overseas trips, a waterfall for the back yard of the president's house and chauffeurs spending much of their time running errands for his wife to jewelers, salons and dry cleaners.
"It galls me to learn that Ben incurred a travel expense for himself alone to Nigeria of $22,345," trustee Paul M. Wolff, a senior partner in the Williams & Connolly law firm in Washington, wrote in a letter sent to board members Tuesday. "Had he bought a business elite ticket, the savings would have covered a student's tuition for one semester." Tuition this year is close to $28,000.
In his letter, a copy of which was seen by Post reporters, Wolff asked trustees to debate the issues rather than continue with emotional arguments, personal attacks and attempts to stop the investigation. He said that although Ladner has been a personal friend and has brought many positive changes to the school, it is time for a new president.
"We do not have enough financial aid to help every student," Wolff wrote. ". . . We have held our faculty to small, single digit salary increases."
But Ladner gave his personal chef raises that averaged 11 percent over the past five years, Wolff wrote.
The letter ended with menus from three birthday dinners for the Ladners, with such delicacies as pan-seared foie gras, BeauSoleil oyster, sabayon and caviar, and white truffle risotto prepared by the Ladners' chef, Rodney Scruggs.
Ladner told the board that the university should pay for all his personal services and other expenses at the campus residence because his 1997 contract not only requires him to live there but also agrees that the university will pay "all costs for maintenance, repair, insurance, utilities, telecommunications, dining, housekeeping services and residence staff." The university-owned house is adjacent to campus in one of Washington's most expensive neighborhoods.
That contract also says the university will provide him with a car and drivers and pay for "entertainment and first-class travel expenses reasonably incurred in the performances of his duties." And it says the university will provide for his wife's membership in an appropriate club, expenses related to her role in conducting university business and expenses for a car.
The spending in dispute includes travel expenses, more than $6,000 in club dues, nearly $54,000 in drivers' costs, more than $220,000 in chef services, more than $100,000 in services from the social secretary and nearly $44,000 in alcohol.
Ladner agreed to reimburse the university for the cost of eight events even though he believed them to be "reasonable."