Trustee approved improper payment

The chairman of the Berkeley Divinity School’s board of trustees said he supported former Dean R. William Franklin’s request that Berkeley pay for part of his daughter’s Harvard Medical School tuition, not knowing at the time that such payment violated Yale policy.

Franklin resigned in December amid allegations of financial mismanagement at Berkeley, an Episcopal seminary affiliated with the Yale Divinity School. While board chairman Christian R. Sonne said the board of trustees never officially approved Franklin’s request for a $10,000 tuition payment, the Hartford Courant reported in December that a Yale-initiated confidential audit showed that Franklin had improperly spent money on Harvard Medical School tuition.

In a memo dated July 25, 2001, Sonne asked the school’s executive board to continue paying Franklin $10,000 per year for his daughter’s education.

“I have to admit that I was not aware of and should have been aware that the payment of the tuition to graduate school was not part of Yale policy although payment to undergraduate education was,” Sonne said Sunday night. “I acted in good faith, but I was not totally knowledgeable of the way the Yale policy was.”

Berkeley had previously financed seven semesters of undergraduate education for Franklin’s daughter, and Franklin requested that the board continue the payments to cover some of the costs of medical school, Sonne said.

Since Franklin’s daughter had already completed one semester of undergraduate education before Franklin arrived at Yale, Sonne said he reasoned that Berkeley should pay for one more semester of her education.

In the memo, Sonne encouraged support of Franklin’s request for $10,000, but Sonne said the usual contribution for a semester’s education is $5,000.

Yale funds a portion of undergraduate tuition for children of employees, University Secretary Linda Lorimer said.

“That policy does not extend to any support for either professional or graduate education,” Lorimer said.

Lorimer also said an employee must have been at Yale for at least seven years to be eligible to receive any payments toward undergraduate tuition. Franklin, who also served as an associate dean of the Yale Divinity School, came to Yale in 1998.

Sonne wrote in the memo, however, that the extension of the payments for graduate school were not only “perfectly reasonable” but would reward Franklin for his success at Berkeley.

Pearl Zuchlewski, a representative for Franklin, said Sonne’s memo proved that Franklin had committed no wrongdoing.

“Thus, in these circumstances, there can be no dispute whatsoever that any tuition payment from [Berkeley] funds that Dean Franklin may have made to Harvard was made with [Berkeley’s] knowledge and approval,” Zuchlewski wrote in a letter to the Yale Daily News.

The Courant also reported that Franklin used funds to pay for a trip to Colorado and dry cleaning, but Sonne said he would only discuss the issue of the tuition payments.

In December Sonne said in a statement that a Berkeley investigation after the Yale audit discovered that there had “been no misappropriation of funds.”

Worth Loomis ’45, the vice chairman of the Berkeley board of trustees, received Sonne’s memo about the tuition payment in July and said he was also unaware that such a request violated Yale policy.

“I think there was never a clear understanding as to what the limits of each of these arrangements were,” Loomis said. “It has made it easy to have some understandings that don’t reflect well on any of us.”

Loomis added that he thought Berkeley had made similar mistakes in the past even before Franklin’s arrival at the school. But although some trustees saw nothing wrong with Franklin’s request, Loomis said he still believed Franklin’s resignation was appropriate.

“I think I’m a little old-fashioned,” Loomis said. “If you’re on the bridge of the ship when it hits the rock, you have to take the blame for it.”

Comments