Former EIU official fined for state ethics violations

Former EIU official fined for state ethics violations

A former Eastern Illinois University testing center director has been fined for ethics violations stemming from a state investigation into the hiring of her husband to administer tests to students.

The Illinois Ethics Commission late last month fined Debra Hopgood, former head of EIU's Office of Academic Assessment and Testing, $1,500 for failing to cooperate with and obstructing an investigation by the Illinois Office of the Executive Inspector General. She resigned from the university in June 2010.

Over a two-year period at EIU, Hopgood and her husband boosted their income by more than $19,000 as Hopgood hired her husband to administer tests, even though he was not certified to do so, according to documents filed in the case. Employees who administered or proctored exams received payment in addition to their university salaries, according to the state.

EIU declined comment on the ruling.

"This is an issue between Ms. Hopgood and the Executive Ethics Commission," said Vicki Shaw-Woodard, coordinator of public information at EIU.

The office, now called the Office of Testing and Evaluation, is responsible for scanning tests and handling surveys and evaluations. Office staff also administer tests like the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, the ACT Residual and College Level Examination Program, according to Shaw-Woodard.

When the state began an investigation, according to the office of executive inspector general, Hopgood allegedly made false statements to investigators, reportedly saying that assigning an assistant chief administrator to proctor exams was not within her discretion; that despite her repeated requests, no one else on staff wanted to do that job; and that she and her husband were present at an exam in August 2008, and finally that she never used her university credit card to buy non-work related items.

The state maintains, through its investigation and through testimony from former colleagues, that contrary to statements Hopgood made, choosing her husband to serve as the assistant chief test administrator was within her control and authority and that the position was sought after by other employees in the office who were willing and qualified to serve, and that on the day of an exam, Aug. 8, 2008, she and her husband were not at the exam.

Before her resignation, Hopgood had been employed at EIU for at least 10 years, according to the university.

Hopgood is now an employee at Carle in Urbana; she has a zero-time, nonsalaried appointment with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Medicine's affiliate program with Carle Foundation Hospital's Family Residency Program. She is not paid by the UI, according to the UI.

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rsp wrote on August 08, 2012 at 9:08 am

So after all that she's fined a fraction of the money and still an employee of the state? It doesn't matter that she isn't getting paid or not. It is called defrauding your employer. I'm your employer. Why is she still my employee?

Marti Wilkinson wrote on August 08, 2012 at 11:08 am

Seems to me that there is a pattern of allowing employees to quit, instead of getting fired. Look at some of the more recent scandals regarding UIUC.

motownmama wrote on August 08, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I don't disagree with your general comment, but according to the article she is not a state employee anymore. Her paid position now is with Carle, and she has a 0% appointment at the U of I. These are not paid positions and are usually only required because of a contractual requirement between Carle and UIUC.

rsp wrote on August 08, 2012 at 3:08 pm

The UIUC has her on their website as faculty, and we all know how that goes. The other staff at Carle are not listed on the UIUC website. I'm curious about the benefits and the extras that come from this arrangement. There must be a reason for it. 

Marti Wilkinson wrote on August 08, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Some of the physicians who work at Carle, or in private practice, are listed as faculty members at UIUC. It's a program that works with medical students at UIUC and facilates both field research and 'hands on' experience for students. A former primary care physician of mine is also listed as faculty, and sometimes he would ask me for permission to have one of his students examine me. That is how I know of the connection between Carle and UIUC.