Divinity School appoints new finance chief

Continuing the recent shakeup of high level management at Yale Divinity School, former Yale senior auditor Richard Madonna has assumed a new post as director of finance and administration, a position he said will also be involved with the affiliated Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary.

After a Yale-initiated audit in September, Madonna informed police that former Yale Facilities Manager Krishna Ramsundar had misappropriated rent from Yale Divinity School students. The information led to Ramsunder’s arrest last month, when the former facilities employee confessed to pocketing over $16,000 of rent in cash since 1997.

Madonna inherits the financial books of the divinity school from former director of finance and administration Judy Stebbins, who was fired by the University as a result of last fall’s audit.

Madonna will also be working with the records of Berkeley Divinity School, where Dean Ralph William Franklin resigned in December amid controversy that he misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars.

“As far as I know, [Berkeley and Yale] are working together,” Madonna said.

Madonna declined comment on the circumstances surrounding the investigation of Ramsundar, but he said he was excited about the new challenges and opportunities his position presents.

Yale President Richard Levin declined to comment on Madonna’s recent appointment.

The controversy surrounding the alleged misappropriation of tens of thousands of dollars by Dean R. William Franklin of the Berkeley Divinity School, an Episcopal seminary affiliated with Yale Divinity School, was not a reflection on the Yale Divinity School as a whole, Madonna said.

“Anywhere you go in an organization as large as Yale, things like this are bound to happen,” Madonna said. “It just seems like throughout Yale now, people look at the Divinity School and say, ‘How could that be?’. [But] We have a new dean with a lot of great ideas and a lot of challenges for everyone. I look at it as in the past, and we are moving forward.”

The information about Berkeley’s finances, which led to Franklin’s end-of-the-year resignation, surfaced after a routine Yale-initiated audit during the summer. The Rev. David Bartlett, the Yale Divinity School’s associate dean for academic affairs, has said he knows of no link between Franklin’s alleged financial mismanagement and Ramsundar’s theft of funds.

The affidavit for Ramsundar’s arrest said that Madonna had met with Ramsundar in September to inquire about empty apartments at the Yale Divinity School. Ramsundar gave Madonna a list of 12 apartments he listed as vacant.

When Madonna followed up on the vacancies with Deputy Director Salvatore Rubano in December, they discovered that apartment No. 414 was occupied by Yale Divinity School student Eun Son Lee.

Lee said that he had been living in the apartment since February 2001 and that Ramsundar had instructed him to pay his $900-per-month rent in cash, as he did not accept checks, according to the affidavit.

Ramsundar gave Yale Divinity School Dean Rebecca Chopp $6,200 on Dec. 17 of last year. The affidavit said that Ramsundar would only tell Chopp “he had done something wrong” without further elaboration.

Chopp would not comment on any of the recent events at the Yale and Berkeley Divinity Schools.

Chopp told Madonna about the incident, and Madonna contacted Yale Police Sergeant Keith L. Pullen to tell him that Ramsundar had stolen the funds. On Dec. 20, Detective Thomas Mullen and Pullen went to Ramsundar. According to the affidavit, Ramsundar told the officers he had stolen money from Yale and that he wished to make a statement.

The next day, Ramsundar presented Mullen and Pullen with a taped statement implicating himself for pocketing the rent money over a period starting August 1997.

The affidavit said that, in the statement, Ramsundar confessed that he took around $16,000 in cash from Yale.

Ramsundar was charged with first degree larceny with a bond of $25,000.

Levin said he did not know enough specifics about the Ramsundar investigation to comment.

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