Lisa Coico, former president of the City College of New York, resigned amid controversy involving her own financial wrongdoings two years ago and has not received any indictments following suit. Instead, she receives $129,213 a year as a tenured professor with fewer than 10 students at the CUNY School of Medicine.
Coico was the first CUNY graduate to act as president of CCNY. She had a yearly salary of $300,000, plus a monthly housing allowance. However, it was reported that the 21st Century Foundation, an organization created to support students, paid for Coico’s personal spending, including a security deposit on a Westchester apartment, furniture and multiple fruit baskets amounting to $136,000.
Additionally, Coico was supposed to be conducting research within microbiology and immunology although she never received any funding or grants. A figurehead confessed that she was currently “applying” for one.
The Research Foundation of CUNY, which manages the research funds for the entire system, reimbursed the 21st Century Foundation more than $150,000 despite college officials pushing for Coico to repay the funds herself. Coico accused CUNY of targeting her in an effort to cover up for its own accounting mistakes and misallocation of funds.
The U.S. Attorney Office in Brooklyn opened an investigation regarding the foundation’s spending, but it was soon put to rest after moving Coico to the CUNY School of Medicine. CUNY covered up the scandal by quietly moving Coico, who ultimately did not face any serious consequences besides a slight pay cut.
The lack of transparency in CUNY does not help maintain accountability among its staff and organizations, which results in situations like this, in which the president of a college gets to walk away unscathed after allegations of financial misconduct. This is concerning because it shows that CUNY would rather move on silently than address an issue.
The office of state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott is continuing an examination of CUNY for a report released in 2016. The report showed that “spending practices at the City University of New York have raised several clear and immediate concerns, including a glaring lack of transparency and the potential for waste and abuse.”
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