OSA Director Nealley fired; dean alleges she embezzled $300,000

Director of Student Activities Jodie Nealley was fired on Friday because she allegedly embezzled approximately $300,000 from the university.

Nealley has admitted to Tufts officials that she took at least a portion of this money, according to Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman.

As of yesterday, Reitman could not provide a specific time period for the embezzlement, nor could he identify the exact sources of the stolen money, as an investigation is still ongoing and has not yielded complete results.

“We are shocked, disappointed and angered by Ms. Nealley’s actions. She breached the trust that all of us at Tufts had placed in her,” Reitman said in a statement. [For the full text of Reitman’s statement, see page 3.]

Reitman first learned of the embezzlement after an audit conducted by the university’s Audit and Management Advisory Services (AMAS) Office unearthed doubts about the way Nealley had been handling funds.

Each office undergoes such an audit every three to five years, and Nealley was scheduled for one this year. But hers came early because of an anonymous tip called into a line set up by the AMAS Office.

Tufts Community Union (TCU) Treasurer Evan Dreifuss, currently in his second year on the job, said he was disturbed by the news.

While he has worked closely with Nealley, he said that he could not think of any glaring red flags.

“I knew nothing about this. I never had any suspicion,” he told the Daily. “This was completely out of the blue, and it was a shock.”

It is still unclear where Nealley took the funds from, but Reitman’s statement indicates that she drew from accounts that her office oversaw. The Office of Student Activities supervises the student activities fund, which brought in roughly $1.2 million this year alone, as well as box office events and several other cash operations.

“We don’t know which of these accounts is involved,” Reitman told the Daily.

Last week, Nealley was confronted with the charges and admitted to taking money from the university. The estimate at that time amounted to less than $300,000, but further investigation led to the current tally.

“That investigation is still continuing, so that amount can shift in either direction,” Director of Public Relations Kim Thurler told the Daily.

According to Reitman, if it comes to light that Nealley embezzled from student organizations, all those that were affected will be repaid using university funds.

“It’s our intent to immediately … reimburse every organization and activity,” he said.

Dreifuss is grateful for this promise. “Obviously, if any money was taken from groups, we want to make sure that the money is rightfully returned,” he said.

It still remains unclear, though, if any money was even taken from the student activities fund.

TCU President Neil DiBiase said that it is likely that the money came from a variety of places, potentially including the fund.

Dreifuss said he has not seen anything that would clearly indicate that Nealley took money from the fund, but he did say that some student organizations had unexpected deficits at the end of last year. These could be caused by the late processing of transactions, but he said he will now look at them more closely.

Nealley served as the TCU Senate’s advisor, and DiBiase shared Dreifuss’ reaction.

“I don’t think that this is something you would assume somebody would do,” he told the Daily. “Obviously, had we expected something, we would have reported it, but I had no indication that this was going to happen or could happen.”

Nealley’s case has been referred to the office of Middlesex County District Attorney Gerald Leone, Jr. Under Massachusetts law, for each count of embezzlement Nealley could face up to five years in prison, or two years of incarceration plus a fine of up to $25,000. She may face several counts.

According to attorney Atchuthan Sriskandarajah, she would likely be required to pay full restitution as well if convicted. Although he is only licensed in Virginia, Sriskandarajah is the president and CEO of the firm Sris, P.C., which has offices in Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.

While university officials search for a replacement for Nealley, Director of Conferences and Summer Programs Paul Tringale will pull double duty, alternating between his current job, in which he plays a key role in planning Commencement, and Nealley’s.

“I’m really pleased [about] his willingness to help provide leadership,” Reitman said of Tringale.

Reitman also praised the AMAS Office for uncovering the evidence of wrongdoing.

“The good news is the system is working,” he said.

Dreifuss saw a light at the end of the tunnel as well, noting that this discovery could lead to some meaningful policy reforms that would prevent such an incident from occurring in the future.

“This is a really unfortunate situation, but we’ll turn it into something better and we’ll fix things that we now know need to be fixed,” he said.