“Closure” to Scott Eaton investigation


Stephen Wilder

President Geoffrey Mearns speaks at a press conference regarding the “closure” of the investigation involving former athletic director Scott Eaton.

Former NKU athletic director Scott Eaton was charged in Campbell County Circuit Court today with a Class C Felony of theft by unlawful taking.

During a press conference, University President Geoffrey Mearns said Eaton “absolutely did not” bring his financial wrongdoings to the university’s attention.

However, Eaton’s lawyer, Ben Dusing disagrees.

“You know, it’s just not true,” Dusing said. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. I have no explanation for that. The fact of the matter is… Scott reported the incident to the university. I really don’t understand.”

Kentucky’s Attorney General and Mearns announced at NKU that the investigation surrounding Eaton has come to a close, after over a year.

“Just about an hour ago, Mr. Eaton entered a guilty plea in Campbell Circuit Court to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from this university,” said Jack Conway, Kentucky Attorney General.

The plea deal means Eaton agreed to a maximum term of 10 years in prison and $311,215 in restitution costs, to be repaid to the university.

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway discusses the charges against Former Athletic Director Scott Eaton.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway discusses the charges against Former Athletic Director Scott Eaton.

He will also have to pay the mandatory felony fine of $1,000 and court costs, according to Conway.

“In a time, when higher education institutions are being asked to accomplish more, with smaller tuition increases and declining state funding, the behavior… of Mr. Eaton, is completely unacceptable,” Conway said.

$311,000 equates to the equivalent of tuition for 40 students at NKU, and that amount is larger than the budgets of some of the major programs within the university, according to Conway.

Eaton agreed to pay full restitution, however his lawyer, Benjamin Dusing, said Eaton does not have the funds to even “make a dent” in that full amount at this time.

“Under the law, he’ll be required to make installment payments toward the $311,000 obligation,” Dusing said. “He’ll be obligated to do that as a condition of any kind of parole he might be in the position to receive.”

Conway said the announced punishment fits the crime.

“I can assure you that Dr. Eaton didn’t wake up one day and decide he was going to steal from the university,” Dusing said. “There was circumstances that motivated his actions in this case. Those circumstances aren’t justification and are not excuses, and he’s never offered them as either.”

Conway disagrees and said Eaton’s actions were only unlawful and harmful to the university.

“More than six years of this type of conduct… It was willful, in that he sought to learn about the reimbursement schemes here, how he could circumvent those, how he could willfully duplicate receipts and avoid detection,” Conway said.

After Mearns was tipped off about the affairs, he said that “my instincts told me that if you can’t be trusted with respect to your conduct in terms of personal relationships, I can’t trust you with respect to the resources you were responsible for.”

Dusing also said that Eaton coming forward with the financial wrongdoings should have had a lot more impact on the case than it did.

“The athletic department was routinely audited for a long time,” Dusing said. “It had gone undetected for five years. There’s no reason to think that any audit of the same kind would catch it this time around.”

Eaton was terminated from NKU on March 18, 2013 for “inappropriate” relationships with five women. Mearns hired an outside firm to complete an audit of the athletic department and Eaton’s files, which is what Mearns said brought the financial wrongdoings to light.

“Today, this event, brings closure to an unfortunate, but very isolated, incident here at Northern Kentucky University,” Mearns said. “The fact is and the fact remains, that our university is strong and is getting better every day.”

Scott Eaton will appear for his sentencing at noon on May 20 in Campbell Circuit Court.

For additional information regarding this investigation and more, check out the links to The Northerner’s coverage below.