Presenting the Double-Dipping Duo, Professors Julie Jacko and Francois Sainfort


UPDATE: Mug shots of Professor Jacko and Professor Sainfort show them with his-and-her come-hither tilts of their chins.  I wonder what reactions those sultry looks will garner in the Big House.

For those of you who still believe in the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and the idea that college faculty work a 35-hour week and then some, allow me to introduce you to Professors Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko, who were recently indicted in Georgia for having accomplished the seemingly impossible: being in two places at once, Georgia Tech, where they were full-time members of the faculty, and the University of Minnesota, where they were full-time members of the faculty. Until they were indicted by the state of Georgia back in March, these mom-and-pop grifters (sound familiar?) were collecting paychecks for two full-time faculty positions at once. Well, make that four paychecks, since each half of this partnership in crime was pulling down a double payday.

Computers have made a faculty member’s  timesheets easier than ever to fill out.

This raises all sorts of interesting questions, doesn’t it? Starting with how, if a professor’s time is consumed by, as many of them claim, laboriously reworking lectures and classroom materials; long hours of scholarly research and writing; advising students and holding office hours for them; and committee meetings, meetings, meetings, how could even the most talented and energetic–as I am certain the Professors Sainfort and Jacko are–of them do all of this twice in one week? There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done! One also might be tempted to ask how stringent are the controls on faculty performance. I’m not talking about measuring the quality of their work, you understand, but simply its quantity. If you think the answer is obvious–not stringent enough–you’d be correct.

But what you need to understand about accountability is that the front line (department chairs) and sometimes the second line (school or college deans) of defense have too much of a vested interest in looking the other way. You see, department heads tend to rotate in and out of the chair’s office, so there is no incentive to ask your colleagues to be accountable and lots of incentive to turn a blind eye, because, in a couple of years, you’ll be out of the hot seat and someone else will be warming the chair’s chair. Although it doesn’t happen regularly, this kind of assured mutual forgiveness can remain intact when a faculty member is elevated to dean.

I doubt that these scenarios applied in the case of the Professors Sainfort-Jacko; you, however, should make up your own mind as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution picks up the story:

Sainfort and Jacko are experts in the field of health informatics, a speciality that focuses on analyzing huge amounts of computer-generated medical data. Sainfort served as director of Tech’s Health Systems Institute, which brings in millions of dollars in research grants.

According to documents, HSI routinely paid thousands of dollars to Robert Jacko, Julie Jacko’s brother, for helping collect data for the institute.

Robert Jacko, who holds a master of business administration degree, according to invoice documents, was paid $86,000 between June 2006 and January 2007. Checks were made out to Jacko listing the address of a UPS store off West Paces Ferry, down the street from where Sainfort and Julie Jacko lived. Their Buckhead house is now on the market for $1.6 million.

Phyllis Brooks, who was Sainfort’s executive assistant, signed off on the payments to Robert Jacko, according to check-request forms provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the state’s Open Records Act.

Notice how the accountable Professor Saintfort leaves his assistant holding the bag. How much would you care to wager she does not live in a $1.6 million home?

As always, there is more to the story. On the day of their indictment back in March, the Professors had their attorneys issue a press release. I’m not going to reproduce it in its hilarious entirety, because it is a tad long-winded, but its central theses are worth parsing, and, besides, it gives a far more detailed account of the indictment than any of the newspaper accounts; my interpretive comments are [in brackets]:

“The facts show that the professors worked tirelessly during that time [i.e., the time they were claiming to be full-time at Georgia Tech and Minnesota] for Georgia Tech, thereby earning this money [in other words, since Georgia issued the indictment and not Minnesota, we’ll claim the Peach State’s money is what they actually “earned.”], and made no secret that they were leaving the University,” said Martin B. Goldberg, an attorney at Lash & Goldberg, who has represented the professors during the investigation. “Indeed, despite Georgia Tech’s allegations of fraud and secrecy, the University actually held a ‘going away party’ for the professors [Red herring. Nobody said they weren’t leaving. While still at Georgia Tech they were collecting from Minnesota.].”

Ever the careful planners, Professors Jacko and Sainfort were packed up and ready to go before enjoying their farewell party at Georgia Tech.

Georgia Tech also claims the professors took money via double travel reimbursements, all arising from a flawed process at Georgia Tech susceptible to mistakes by all involved; a process that was revised after this matter arose. [In other words, the claim is correct.]

Georgia Tech also claims a relative, Robert Jacko, received monies for work he did not perform on a privately funded project. The evidence shows that Mr. Jacko’s work, performed over the period of nearly a year, was needed, was performed, and did in fact assist in the completion of a successful research endeavor. [Apparently homeless while performing this work, Mr. Jacko picked up his share of the loot at a drop-site.]

In responding to the indictment on the professors’ behalf, Goldberg said, “Drs. Sainfort and Jacko are devastated by this attempt to criminalize their decision to leave Georgia Tech, yet they remain steadfast and committed to addressing their innocence through the judicial process.” He also added, “The way this matter was handled over the past three years by Georgia Tech sends a scary and chilling message to other successful professors and employees at that institution.”

“Dr. Sainfort regrets that Georgia Tech has sought to prosecute this matter [No kidding.] and looks forward to having all the facts presented,” said Buddy Parker, an attorney with Maloy Jenkins Parker who represents Sainfort.

Added Robert Rubin, an attorney with Peters Rubin & Sheffield, representing Jacko, “Dr. Jacko has always been forthright and honest in her dealings with Georgia Tech and fully expects to be exonerated at trial.” [It was all the executive assistant’s fault.]

Please bear with me as I reproduce additional lawyerly prose. University of Minnesota General Counsel Mark Rotenberg’s statement, however, regarding the criminal indictments of Professors Sainfort and Jacko is bracingly and refreshingly direct:

This morning the University of Minnesota was informed that professors Francois Sainfort and Julie Jacko were each indicted on multiple felony counts by a grand jury in the state of Georgia. According to the Georgia Attorney General, the indictment alleges that Sainfort and Jacko “conspired to be employed full time and receive salary from Georgia Tech while simultaneously being employed full time and collecting salary from the University of Minnesota. The indictment also charges that the two fraudulently billed Georgia Tech for travel expenses, inappropriately directed payments to a relative, and lied about their dual employment and the purpose of the Georgia Tech-funded travel.”

On December 14, 2010 Professors Sainfort and Jacko were disciplined by the university [of Minnesota] after a review of the facts surrounding their transition from the Georgia Institute of Technology to the University of Minnesota in 2007-2008. Both professors received letters of reprimand and were required to pay the university [of Minnesota] approximately $59,000. As part of their reprimands, the university advised them that there may be grounds for further university review and action in the event material new facts come to light.

Professors Sainfort and Jacko’s employment activities at the university will be managed in accordance with relevant University Human Resources policies, and the university will adhere to all regulatory notification requirements governing any affected sponsored research in which the professors are involved.

It’s probably no accident that the disciplined duo wound up at the University of Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers. They have proven they can go fer the gold, and, just like the rodents they are, they have no compunction about taking what’s theirs and what’s there.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.

Professor Jacko stands guard at the West Paces Ferry UPS.

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12 thoughts on “Presenting the Double-Dipping Duo, Professors Julie Jacko and Francois Sainfort

    • Trying to figure out how 1437 miles (the distance between GA and MN) became, for one couple, 5748 miles worth of reimbursements. Per one-way trip.

  1. You really should collect all these wonderful essays about the Deadly Sins of Higher Education and put them in a book.

  2. In my opinion Drs. Sainfort and Jacko appear to be highly motivated and aggressive in their pursuit of titles, positions and appointments. This isn’t necessarily bad – but those with this mentality can sometimes come to believe that accounting requirements and institutional laws apply only to the less ambitious researcher – but not to anyone on a supposed rapid career ascent.

    Climbing the ladder of academic administration is a full time job on its own that almost always interferes with work back at the lab. Thus if the couple worked “tirelessly” at Ga Tech then they won’t mind a closer examination of percent effort declarations in comparison to their busy schedules and participation in the activities mentioned in their CVs/biographies.

    I hope this case yields a definitive verdict and if they are innocent then the record will show it. (Of course plea bargains are a possibility). But its time for researchers to pay more attention to the fields they are alleged to be experts in and less time worrying about the next promotion, rung on the ladder, or social occasion photo op. http://www.socialmiami.com/socialeyes/Lighthouse2006.asp see pic about halfway down.

    Lastly, I feel that this couple is not unique – (Remember the Charles Nemeroff problem at Emory University ? ) To some extent it’s understandable since success (popular and critical) can lead to more grants, which makes such researchers more attractive to institutions, leading to aggressive recruitment (higher salary and greater prestige). So the university system also plays a roll in this as an enabler. On the other hand this should never be an excuse for questionable behavior.

    We don’t need “rock star scientists” as there are plenty of committed and driven researchers who don’t make a theater of themselves or their work – they just get on with the job and work within the established parameters.

  3. http://blog.lib.umn.edu/sphpod/advances/2011/02/hitech-act-should-focus-more-on-patients.html

    The following represents my opinion….

    One sees that School of Public Health at UM is promoting Dr. Jacko’s status as ” one of a handful of experts” in the press release above. Its up for debate as to whether or not UM is attempting to soften her image as an alleged double-dipper by publishing this piece which advocates more patient focus in the HITECH act. I mean do we really need an expert to tell us that increased patient advocacy is to be recommended in any health care related legislation ? This is hardly going out on a limb. And also, couldn’t they have at least quoted an expert who isn’t currently facing serious charges ?

    I used to take a somewhat benign view relative to UM’s overall response to this problem. Yes – they fined Jacko and Sainfort, which, given their salaries, was a mere hand slap. But do they really need to wait until the outcome of their legal situation in Georgia before initiating their own investigation into this ? Double-dipping is one of the more serious offenses, which, if proven to be true, usually results in dismissal. It seems to me that UM should be all over this to bring it to a speedy resolution on their end if for no other reason than to demonstrate an aggressive attitude about finding out the truth. This is a serious ethical issue and if the couple can easily prove their innocence then let them. But UM needs to show they are motivated and interested in getting to the bottom of this without waiting any longer. Are the research areas pursued by Jacko and Saintfort so unique or rare that UM can’t afford to lose them ?

    Continued absence of action by UM can give the idea that they are soft on ethical issues and don’t have associated processes to rapidly determine if there is truth behind the charges. No one is calling for a short-circuit of the institutional review or legal processes – by all means let Jacko and Sainfort present their cases but this doesn’t mean that UM shouldn’t be conducting their own investigation, which would show that they are taking this matter very seriously. At this point one could get the idea that UM is simply letting the case in Georgia play out and that will serve as a de-facto hearing process – after which they will make decisions. Who knows ? But as long as their case is still in the air, UM needs to accept the reality that press releases referencing Jacko or Sainfort will be viewed against the back drop of their current legal problems

  4. Pingback: Double-Dipping Duo: The Denouement | Call Me "Miss"!

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