Former U. of Louisville Dean Is Sentenced to More Than 5 Years

May 17, 2010

Robert D. Felner, the former dean of the University of Louisville's College of Education and Human Development, was sentenced on Monday to five and a quarter years in federal prison.

Mr. Felner was indicted in October 2008 on charges that he and a confederate had misappropriated more than $2.3-million from a federal research grant and from contracts with three urban school districts.

The indictment prompted a long round of soul-searching at Louisville. Some faculty members say that the university could have detected Mr. Felner's wrongdoing earlier if administrators had paid attention to faculty and student complaints about his conduct. Others have suggested that the university did a weak job of checking Mr. Felner's background when he was hired in 2003.

At today's hearing, Judge Charles R. Simpson III of the U.S. District Court in Louisville ratified a plea deal that Mr. Felner's attorneys had negotiated in December. In the agreement, Mr. Felner pleads guilty to nine counts of mail fraud and tax evasion. Along with imposing the 63-month prison term, the deal requires Mr. Felner to make restitution of $510,000 to the University of Louisville and more than $1.6-million to the University of Rhode Island.

"Robert Felner is being punished for his crime and we expect to be fully compensated for the funds he stole," said Mark Hebert, Louisville's director of communications and marketing, in a written statement on Monday. "But our campus community, including the College of Education under interim Dean Blake Haselton, really has moved past the turmoil Mr. Felner caused. Life goes on at the U. of L."

A committee at Louisville recently interviewed three finalists for Mr. Felner's old position.

Mr. Felner's alleged co-conspirator, Thomas Schroeder, has not entered a plea agreement. He is scheduled to go on trial in August.

In a recent indictment prepared for that trial, prosecutors have charged that Mr. Schroeder and Mr. Felner also defrauded an addiction center in Illinois where Mr. Schroeder previously worked. That allegation was not part of the original set of charges against Mr. Felner, but he admitted to that fraud in the plea deal.