President Geoffrey Mearns has named NKU “a victim” and asked law enforcement to seek “full and prompt restitution” after he announced Tuesday that former athletic director Scott Eaton “diverted” between $100,000 and $150,000 of athletic department funds for personal use over the past eight years.
Eaton admitted, through legal counsel, that he used “deceptive means” to acquire these funds.
Mearns announced the financial misconduct through a letter sent to Board of Regents Chair Terry Mann, which was sent via email to the faculty, staff and students of the university.
Mearns said the $100,000-150,000 that was reported is the estimated total in Eaton’s admissions. The university will continue to investigate with law firm Dinsmore and Shohl to determine the accuracy of his estimates.
Eaton’s attorney, Ben Dusing, said in a statement that the amount of those funds is unknown and the “$100,000-150,000 estimate referenced in the university’s communication is the university’s estimate only.”
In the letter to Mann, Mearns said Eaton sought legal counsel after learning a financial review would take place. During meetings with Eaton’s legal counsel and NKU’s legal counsel, Eaton admitted to diverting the funds, according to Mearns.
Mearns said in a press conference that the investigation will also continue to assist law enforcement with finding complete information and ways to “strengthen our internal financial controls.”
Mearns is asking that law enforcement seek the “full and prompt restitution to the university of all the funds and property that Mr. Eaton embezzled.”
“We deserve to be reimbursed and compensated for the financial loss … this was money that we designed to support our student athletes, coaches and everyone committed to the academic and athletic success of our athletes,” Mearns said. “I believe we are entitled to have Mr. Eaton repay us.”
Eaton most likely diverted the money within the last six to eight years, possibly in 2007 or 2008, according to Mearns. He also added that the financial issue occurred prior to Eaton’s time serving as the university’s athletic director, according to Eaton’s admission.
This means the diverting could have occurred during Eaton’s time as NKU’s associate athletic director for administration, which he served as from 1999-2009.
Because of the “nature of the financial misconduct,” the university will cooperate in a federal criminal investigation of Eaton if the state decides to move forward, according to Mearns’ email.
At the onset of the investigation, Mearns said he would notify law enforcement if there was evidence of criminal conduct. Earlier today, Mearns spoke directly with Attorney General Jack Conway to inform him of Eaton’s financial review.
“The purpose of my call was to enable the attorney general to consider any investigation and prosecution of Dr. Eaton that he deems appropriate and warranted,” he said in the letter to Mann.
Currently, Mearns said he does not know if the attorney general’s office will proceed with an investigation.
Dusing said that Eaton is unaware of any criminal investigation.
“Dr. Eaton deeply regrets his mistakes and recognizes that his poor judgment has injured others, including the university as an institution,” the statement said. “While no excuse, the fact remains that difficult circumstances can lead good people to make poor decisions. Nonetheless, Dr. Eaton accepts full responsibility for his actions and is dedicated to doing whatever he can to make things right.”
Dusing was unable to comment further at the time of publication.
Eaton was terminated March 18 for being untruthful about inappropriate relationships with five women at NKU, one of whom was a student at the time, over a span of at least 10 years.
When Mearns was informed of ethical misconduct in early March, an investigation began that revealed the extent of Eaton’s misconduct. On April 5, the university began a financial review of the Athletic Department with the help of accounting firm Clark Schaefer Hackett.