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Source: Grand Forks Herald, February 27, 1993

Steve Schmidt, Herald Staff Writer

The dean of the medical school has suspended Gary Farris, director of UND's Indians into Medicine program, without pay while the university completes an audit of his funds, going back six years.

Farris had been suspended since Feb. 8, but with pay.

Dr. Edwin James, medical dean, said Friday he couldn't justify keeping Farris on the INMED payroll based on the preliminary audit findings.

Farris' salary is $52,248.

Farris was contacted Friday, but had no comment.

Some employees and former employees at INMED privately have raised questions about the way Farris was handling funds in his accounts, including Indian art auction money to benefit students.

The medical school began investigating possible discrepancies earlier this winter, and James said some questions about checks first came to his attention in January.

The internal audit could take another three to four weeks, he said.

"There are some concerns," he said of the results so far. "I don't think i can pay for him off the federal grants, with the concerns we have. I don't think I can pay him off with other monies."

Auditors are going back to 1986, the year Farris took over as head of INMED. It is a $708,000-a-year program funded primarily by federal agencies to help Indians pursue health careers.

Farris is an Idaho native who belongs to the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma, and he has a master's degree in public health from the University of Oklahoma. He recently has been working on a UND law degree while holding the INMED post.

INMED, which marks its 20th anniversary this year, us a nationally recognized program. Medical administrators at UND have said that, with INMED support, the university has educated 21 percent of the nation's Indian doctors.

In addition, INMED, over the years, has brought millions of dollars to the medical school.

Most of the money Farris has been in charge of comes from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its public health service division.

Main funding sources for INMED are the Indian Health Service, a Native American Excellence Grant and a Health Careers Opportunities Grant.

James said Friday, "It's going to take three to four more weeks before we have a complete review of the department. This is due to inaccessibility of records and things like that. We're working on it, it's just going slow."

He added, "I don't want to get into a discussion of what the audit is showing until I have a thorough review."

Meantime, in a separate UND investigation, Toni Scott, the coordinator at the UND, Era Bell Thompson Cultural Center, remains under suspension with pay, while officials look into a student complaint.

No details have been released since Scott was suspended in early February by Dean of Students Lilian Elsinga.

Scott was in charge of service for Asian, African and Hispanic-American students.

Herald staff writer Tony Lone Fight contributed to this report.

This affair leads one to ask - Where has the University of North Dakota's Administration been for the six years prior to this? Either UND administrators are grossly incompetent for allowing Mr. Farris to mishandle funds for the past 6 years or UND officials elected to destroy Mr. Farris' career because he angered a superior. Such vendettas are a common occurrence at UND.