The personal chef employed by suspended American University President Benjamin Ladner and paid for by the school has been let go during a probe by the university's Board of Trustees into personal and travel expenses submitted by Ladner, according to sources.
In addition, the social secretary for the president and his wife, Nancy Bullard Ladner, has been transferred, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Sally Ekfelt is now working in the president's office as an assistant to David E. Taylor, chief of staff to the president of the university, they said.
The actions come as the trustee board is close to completing a months-long probe of Ladner, who became president in 1994 and soon faced criticism for hiring the chef, Rodney Scruggs, and spending some $200,000 for drainage work and landscaping at the university-owned house where he lived.
Ladner was placed on administrative leave Aug. 24, and Provost Cornelius M. Kerwin was named acting president.
Neither Ladner nor Kerwin returned phone calls seeking comment. Several trustees declined to comment, as did Scruggs. Ekfelt did not return phone calls.
One source with knowledge of the investigation said the position of chef was eliminated as "an unnecessary expense," the same reason Ekfelt was transferred to another job. Ekfelt had worked out of the Ladners' on-campus home and was paid by the university to coordinate their social schedule.
It was not clear why the board eliminated Scruggs's position now; he had been employed by the university since 1996. University presidents are expected to entertain a great deal as part of their fundraising and other duties, so many rely on caterers or, less commonly, chefs.
Scruggs was known at the Northwest Washington school for whipping up multi-course meals for the Ladners, as well as for their personal and university guests in Ladner's campus home and in a house he and his wife own on Gibson Island in Maryland.
Sources knowledgeable about the case said Scruggs would sometimes be called late at night to cook dinner for the couple. Two chauffeurs who worked for the Ladners also said they often were required to take Scruggs's dirty white uniforms to a dry cleaner.
Ladner's base salary last year was $633,000, according to Internal Revenue Service records.
Special correspondent Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.