On Monday, Missouri State Interim President Clifton M. Smart III announced that the campus bookstore's director, Mark Brixey (above), was fired after an internal audit revealed more than $400,000 in missing funds.
Smart, who held a news conference in the Parliamentary Room of Plaster Student Union, said the announcement was the "hardest thing I've had to do" as interim president.
"About two weeks ago, during a routine internal audit, we discovered irregularities in how cash was being handled in the bookstore," said Smart. "Upon further investigation on that day, we found more than $81,000 in cash in the desk of the director, Mr. (Mark) Brixey."
Brixey was on vacation during that time. MSU's auditors found the money in an "off the books" operation from the sale of textbooks and buyback.
"Since then, the good work of our office of internal audit has led to the discovery that more than $400,000 is unaccounted for over the past three years," continued Smart.
At this time, university officials say they aren't sure how much money is missing or how long it's been going on.
Brixey worked at the bookstore 21 years and was bookstore manager for the last 12. No charges have been filed at this point.
"You know, if you would've asked me a month ago, 'Would Mark Brixey take money from the bookstore?' I would've told you no," said Smart. "Longtime employee, very loyal to both the university and the bookstore. I can't tell you how disappointed I am in this."
"It's pretty crazy," says MSU junior Scott Trudt. "I can't believe someone under the Missouri State name would be stealing from students and taking things away from them."
"That's pretty crazy to me," says freshman Steven Roach. "I wouldn't think anyone would do that, especially at a respected university like Missouri State University and hopefully it's taken care of and he's punished with proper consequences and all that."
The university hopes to recover a significant portion of the missing money through an employee theft insurance policy.
The bookstore has total annual revenues of just over $15 million and a lot of that money supports student scholarships. Smart says the university will go back through the last couple years until it's convinced it's found all the money.
Kent Thomas will now take over as the bookstore director. Springfield Police are now investigating the case.
News Release from Missouri State University:
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Missouri State University's internal auditors have found more than $400,000 missing from the Missouri State University bookstore, university officials announced today. As a result, the director of the bookstore, Mark Brixey, is no longer employed at the university and the case has been turned over to the Springfield police for investigation.
Missouri State University Interim President Clifton M. Smart III made the announcement today at a news conference on campus.
"About two weeks ago, during a routine internal audit, we discovered irregularities in how cash was being handled in the bookstore," said Smart. "Upon further investigation on that day, we found more than $81,000 in cash in the desk of the director, Mr. (Mark) Brixey. Since then, the good work of our office of internal audit has led to the discovery that more than $400,000 is unaccounted for over the past three years.
"We now have reason to suspect that Mr. Brixey transacted business off the regular books for multiple years by cashing checks payable to the university and keeping some or all of the cash. We have gone back three years, but at this time we don't know exactly how long this has been going on or the total amount of money missing."
Brixey, a 1989 Missouri State graduate, worked at the bookstore as a student and has been a full-time bookstore employee since 1991. He was first hired as a bookstore accounting clerk in January 1991 and was promoted to bookstore supervisor in July 1993. He was appointed director of the bookstore in October 2000. His resignation was effective Friday (Aug. 17).
The university has an employee theft insurance policy and hopes to recover a significant portion of the missing money.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed," said Gordon Elliott, chair of the Missouri State Board of Governors. "The reality is, no matter how good your policies are, you cannot guarantee against inappropriate behavior. The Board is in complete agreement with how President Smart and the administration have responded to this situation."
Smart announced a series of actions that have been taken, including:
Kent Thomas, special assistant to the president, has been named interim director of the bookstore, and will report directly to Smart.
The internal audit will continue and additional recommendations will be implemented; several procedures already have been tightened to help guard against future incidents.
The bookstore employees were informed Monday morning and the campus community was informed shortly after 2 p.m. in an email from Smart.
"I think our office of internal audit deserves special credit for identifying this issue and for pursuing it thoroughly and effectively," said Orv Kimbrough, vice chair of the Board of Governors and chair of the Board's Finance Committee. "This is an example of the advantage of having a strong internal audit process. The process worked just as it should have."
Smart indicated that the Springfield police will now lead the investigation and respond to inquiries. University staff and officials will cooperate fully with the investigation.
The bookstore has total annual revenues of just over $15 million. Significant portions of the proceeds are transferred to the university to support student scholarships and other priorities.
"This is a very unfortunate incident," said Smart. "But, we are doing what is right and being true to our practice of being transparent in all we do. It is my sincere hope that the acts of this one individual will not reflect negatively on the bookstore operation, its employees or other university employees."