PULLMAN, Wash.-- A year ago, Dr. Howard Grimes, former dean of the graduate school and vice president of research, left Washington State University for the same position at Idaho State. He had stepped down earlier in the year to rejoin WSU’s faculty, saying he would pursue his passion of research into food production.
Before Grimes’ departure, President Elson Floyd had requested an audit of his travel expenditures, which totaled nearly $40,000 in the preceding academic year, including stays at high-end hotels in the Northwest and internationally. Grimes was frequently accompanied by Heidi Jarvis, then the director of external relations and development for the Office of Research and the Graduate School.
Jarvis’ travel totaled $27,545.64, according to documents obtained under the state’s open records law. Grimes and Jarvis have since married and both began working at Idaho State University in November 2012.
Grimes declined to be interviewed, but stated in an email that travel audits are routine.
“This audit did not influence my decision to leave WSU for a great opportunity elsewhere,” he wrote.
WSU spokesperson Kathy Barnard said Floyd requested the audit after noticing Grimes and Jarvis were planning another trip together internationally which was later cancelled.
Barnard said no personnel action was taken or warranted by the report.
“Obviously, the university takes proper stewardship of all funds and holding employees accountable for their behavior very seriously,” she said. “However, it would be inaccurate and unfair to characterize the details outlined in the travel compliance review of both Dr. Grimes and Ms. Jarvis as evidence of any wrongdoing.”
The report sent to Floyd in June 2012 of the pair’s travels over the year noted missing receipts, costs exceeding 150 percent of the maximum per diem, limos and two cookbooks. It also included travel costs for Grimes’ wife, who he divorced before marrying Jarvis.
When staying in Seattle to attend conferences, university events and meet with potential donors, he always stayed at Hotel 1000, whose website advertises amenities include sparkling wine upon check-in, a spa and a virtual golf course. According to the summary of the audit, in one instance the hotel hosting the conference offered a discount to attendees, but Grimes stayed at Hotel 1000.
During a six-month period in the 2011-12 school year, his travel costs exceeded the allowed amount by $4,388.25. Jarvis, who stayed at Hotel 1000 on all but one Seattle trip, had excessive costs of $3,751.72.
All were paid by the university--some through state funds. When Grimes’ and Jarvis’ claims exceeded the allowable per diem for state funds, they were paid with donations to the university.
"It is understood that business needs change, however, the units should make more effort to reduce unnecessary costs," wrote internal audit director Heather Lopez in the report.
Grimes earned a salary of $218,450 the year before he left. Under his lead, WSU saw a record increase in research and grant funding.
In emails provided with the audit records, Grimes and another administrator discussed whether to attend an agricultural conference in Washington, D.C. It conflicted with the academic showcase at WSU, but it was important for the university to have visibility and network in the industry, administrators said.
“Plus, I just love to travel,” Grimes wrote.