ASCMC President Elliot Behling CM ’19 and Chief Financial Officer Philip Lippincott CM ’19 resigned Monday after an internal investigation found approximately $2,000 worth of fraudulent reimbursement receipts processed to students this past academic year, according to an email to all Claremont McKenna College students.
Maya Love CM ’20 and Connor Bloom CM ’19, who before the investigation served as executive vice president and president pro-tempore, respectively, sent the email. They stated that, per the ASCMC constitution, Love will immediately assume Behling’s previous role as president.
The email states that “near the end of the academic year, some questionable activities of the Corporation of [ASCMC] were brought to the attention of [Love and Bloom] by CMC’s Dean of Students Office.”
ASCMC reviewed their financial records and conducted interviews during an internal investigation process. They concluded that several “fraudulent receipts were submitted and processed for reimbursement.”
Love and Bloom wrote that the investigation revealed “failures in ASCMC’s financial controls to prevent this unauthorized activity.”
In Behling’s resignation letter, which was attached to the email, he said he personally made purchases for student activities and did not save the receipts or submit them “in a timely manner.” To ensure he would still be reimbursed, he said he submitted receipts from “unrelated, and unauthorized, transactions.”
“My intention was always to ensure those activities for which items were purchased were successful,” Behling wrote. “I realize, however, that my intentions do not justify the circumvention of our financial standards.”
That’s why, he said, he resigned.
In Lippincott’s resignation letter, which was also attached to the email, he explained he had no knowledge of the inauthenticity of the reimbursement receipts he was processing and was cleared by the investigation team of having any direct involvement.
Lippincott had recently implemented numerous changes in an attempt to reorganize the “chaotic reimbursement process,” which previously often left them with several outstanding expense reimbursement requests, he wrote.
He had crafted a three-step system which began with approval of the initial expense by the board member who had oversight over the activity that incurred the expense.
The reimbursement receipt would be approved by the treasurer, who then verified the accuracy of expenses while also entering the amount into an accounting system. The final step would be for Lippincott to verify the receipt himself to ensure that it matched the amount in the system before a check was sent.
Lippincott said he resigned because the policies and procedures he oversaw did not prevent the fraud from happening.
“I tender my resignation […] in hopes that ASCMC can move forward to carry out its mission to leave a positive impact on the Claremont McKenna College students,” Lippincott wrote, stating that additional improvements to ASCMC are necessary.
He suggested that anyone seeking reimbursement be required to sign a code of ethical conduct with the submitted receipt. Lippincott recommended ASCMC to create a checklist with dates, specific items, and overall amount of expenses to check for with each receipt submitted for reimbursement.
Behling also cited a need for change in ASCMC in his letter of resignation.
“ASCMC’s financial management practices require substantial, systemic reform,” he wrote. “The best thing I can do to ensure positive change is to remove myself, to ensure my presence does not interfere with the necessary reform process.”
CMC Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Basso wrote in an email to TSL that in light of this situation, the Dean of Students office will help manage and supervise the handling of ASCMC’s funds.
“For now, ASCMC will continue to determine the allocation of ASCMC funds, but the Dean of Students Office will administer the disbursement of those funds and will serve as additional oversight to ensure purchases are in accord with ASCMC and College policies,” Basso said.
The email from Love and Bloom stated that the investigation did not find misappropriation of funds or lack of oversight by any other board members.
“We have full confidence in the ASCMC Executive Board to fulfill their duties that best serve CMC,” Love and Bloom wrote.
According to the ASCMC Constitution, Bloom should succeed Love as executive vice president. However, Love and Bloom wrote that they believe the transition will run more smoothly with Bloom remaining as president pro-tempore.
A new executive vice president and a new CFO will both be appointed for the fall semester, while the process for their appointments will be announced in the future.
Until then, treasurer Max Dawson CM ’21 will assist with the responsibilities of the CFO role, according to Love and Bloom.
The ASCMC investigation and resulting resignations follow financial controversies within Pitzer College Student Senate last semester, when TSL revealed that $40,000 in club spending was unaccounted for.
This is a developing story and will be updated as soon as more information becomes available.