Acting Gov. Blair Lee III yesterday ordered the Maryland Attorney General's office to investigate charges that student rolls at Frederick Comminity College were padded in an effort to get additional state funding.
The charges stemmed from an audit for the college's board of trustees that indicated enrollments may have been padded with names taken from the telephone directory.
Additionally, the audit said, non-existent courses were created by listing meetings held by private clubs and organizations as courses and including the names of members as students.
Robert S. Rothenhoefer, Frederick County state's attorney, said he had not yet determined how widespread this practice may have been.
Newspapers in the Frederick area said there may have been as much as $500,000 fraudulently obtained from the state.
Lee said it was clear from the audit "that a proper investigation should be conducted, that any criminal wrongdoers should be prosecuted and that state should prosecuted and that that state should pursue the recovery of any funds that may be due to it."
In a letter to Attorney General Francis B. Burch, Lee said the Frederick County State's attorney's office lacks the staff to conduct an investigation. He asked Burch to work with the State's Attorney and to turn over to him any evidence for prosecution.
Burch was also directed to take whatever action necessary in civil court to recover any money due the state.
State's Attorney Rothenhoefer said padding "is a problem that might not only affect Frederick County. It might well be a statewide problem."
Frederick Community College is the second community college in Maryland to run into difficulties this spring.
At Cecil Community College in Elkton a series of federal and state audits found state, federal and local funds to have been illegally comingled, records destroyed and degrees awarded to students who hadn't earned them.
Specifically, the audits found that 19 students had been granted degrees without completing proper credits and that college officials had altered academic records to cover it up.