, a former state legislator and chair of Metro, took a $4,500 trip to Europe while a top Portland State University
official last fall, claiming he went to attend conferences on higher education.
has obtained an audit
that alleges the conferences never existed or didn't take place during his 11-day trip to London and Paris.
The special Oregon University System audit says Burton, then a vice provost
at PSU, gave misleading answers during their investigation, and
documents provided to justify his publicly funded European trip appeared to be altered.
concluded that there was not a valid conference to justify PSU's reimbursement of Mr.
Button's European trip," the audit says. "While Mr. Burton may have attended one to two business meetings, he
was unable to account for the majority of the trip itinerary."
PSU is now demanding Burton repay the cost of the trip and is referring its findings to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
PSU is expected to release a second audit today that is critical of the way the program Burton oversaw, the School of Extended Studies, was run during his tenure.
The auditors also said emails sent by Burton show he set up the trip in part to
visit family in Europe. Auditors found that Burton wrote to an official in Europe to say he was looking for a conference he could attend to help justify his trip. According to the audit, Burton wrote, "My stepdaughter lives
in Surrey and her 50th birthday is coming up in
September and I'm looking for an excuse to visit."
Burton tells WW
that he never intended to mislead anyone or provide false
information about his trip. He said he did attend meetings in England
and one day of a conference in France. He said he spent three days in
Paris ill in bed at his hotel.
Burton says he offered to reimburse PSU for any additional expenses in
June. He said the trip cost PSU $3,100 and he thinks the university is
asking him to reimburse it for vacation time.
“Some of this trip should have been reported as personal time,” Burton
said. “I didn’t make that clear, and I regret that.”
Burton, 70, served two terms as chair of the Metro council, from 1994 to
2002, and before that served in the Oregon House representing North
He retired July 1 as vice provost overseeing PSU’s School of Extended Studies.
The audit reveals that Burton was told on June 14 he would be placed on administrative leave, after he gave inconsistent statements about his whereabouts and travel
during the European trip. Burton resigned the next day.
Burton tells WW
he was planning on retiring anyway and that questions were
presented to him just as he was leaving PSU.
Burton took the trip from September 28 to October 9, 2010. According to the audit, Burton claimed in interviews and in
reimbursement records that he attended a conference in Paris sponsored
by the European Distance and E-Learning Network beginning Sept. 30,
The audit says that a brochure Burton used as evidence of the conference
turned out to come from an entirely different event: “The content of
the September 30, 2010, agenda appears to have been copied from an
agenda for a conference offered on June 7, 2010 by a different
organization: the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.”
Burton says he attended another conference in Paris, but auditors found
that the conference had taken place more than two weeks before Burton
went to Paris—and that the invitation he submitted as evidence appeared
to have had its dates altered.
The audit said Burton claimed to have attended part of this second
conference "although he was not able to provide documentation to support
this statement other than the conference invitation that appears to have
Burton tells WW he changed the dates himself, and told PSU he had done
“I thought the dates of the conference had been changed, and I wrote in
new dates to reflect that,” Burton says. “I thought those were the dates
the conference actually happened.” Burton says he later learned he was
The conference actually took place more than two weeks before Burton went to Paris, according to the audit.
In the emails, the audit says, Burton told
relatives in Europe he would have plenty of time on his hands to go to “a football
or rugby game, a musical, and taking the family out to dinner.”
: PSU President Wim Wiewel issued this statement Friday about the Burton audit:
"We take seriously the findings of the audits and are taking aggressive steps to respond. We have made staffing changes, tightened policies and procedures in the School of Extended Studies and will continue to improve business practices and controls. We are seeking reimbursement from Mike Burton for the European travel expenses identified in the audit and have referred our concerns to the Oregon Ethics Commission.
We do not tolerate university employees using public funds for private trips or any other inappropriate purpose."