North Carolina Central University (NCCU) is facing a lawsuit from one of its former vice chancellors. Benjamin Durant claims he was fired from his job after raising concerns about improper spending. He filed a whistleblower lawsuit against NCCU and its chancellor, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.
Durant says, after he raised concerns about Chancellor Johnson Akinleye’s luxury vehicle and that UNC Board of Governors members were trying to steer a multimillion-dollar campus housing contract to a Raleigh company, he was fired.
In his vice chancellor position, Durant was in charge of finance. His whistleblower lawsuit alleges that Akinleye and two members of the UNC system governing board, Harry Smith and Darrell Allison were trying to influence a $90 million contract. He says they were trying to steer the contract to the Preiss Company of Raleigh. Durant says there were secret meetings even after the members were obligated to a “fair, open and competitive” bidding process. Durant reported his concerns to an NCCU trustee.
But the allegations don’t stop there. He also claims Akinleye used state money to pay for a GMC Yukon Denali. Chancellors in the UNC system are given cars to use as part of the job, Akinleye was given a Nissan Pathfinder. He then requested an upgrade to the Denali. The lawsuit says, the $69,000 vehicle was paid for with state money. A spokeswoman for the Department of Administration said NCCU sent the vehicle to State Surplus Property for sale where it was sold by auction for just over $57,000.
Durant said he told the chancellor that state funds were not to be used for the vehicle, siting a letter sent by N.C. Department of Administration. He then claims Akinleye became “enraged” called him “stupid” and told him he “was gone.” Durant was fired shortly after.
The Push Back
Harry Smith and Darrell Allison are painting a different picture of the alleged whistleblower. Smith says Durant was “grossly unprepared” in the meetings and everything he’s claiming can be disproven by facts.
Darrell Allison claims he is shocked at the allegations. He also claims no wrongdoing. Both he and Smith say the whistleblower lawsuit is nothing more than a “disgruntled employee” lashing out.
NCCU has issued a statement saying the university followed “policies and procedures” and that the allegations will be “vigorously challenged and defended in the court of law.”
To learn more about this case or report suspect fraud, contact Jeff Newman Law today!