Student discovers Katz’s criminal past

University President Bruce Speck this afternoon said Norman Katz has an employment contract with Missouri Southern, but declined to say whether he would still teach on campus in the spring semester.

Katz, who was hired to teach accounting classes next semester, pleaded guilty earlier this year to embezzling $129,000 from a museum in Ohio and was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay restitution.

He requested and was granted permission from a judge in the case last month to travel to Missouri for a teaching job at a university.

Speck said he just recently became aware of Katz’s past legal troubles. When asked if he had concerns about an admitted embezzler teaching accounting at the University, Speck responded: “I think naturally there would be concerns about that.”

University officials may have first learned of Katz’s embezzlement last week when a student enrolled in his spring Managerial Accounting course did an Internet search to find more information about the instructor.

Kevin Bujarski, a financing and marketing double major who transferred from Ozark Christian College last spring, told The Chart he did a Google search for Katz and discovered an article from Nov. 1 in The Canton Repository that mentioned Katz receiving permission to teach in Missouri. 

Bujarski said he forwarded the article to his advisor and asked if he was aware of Katz’s criminal background. The advisor reportedly said he wasn’t and forwarded the message on to the department head.

On Monday, Bujarski was told by an accounting instructor that “my news was news,” he said, and another instructor told him he had “created quite the chaos.”

“I started getting the impression they didn’t know,” he told The Chart.

“From what I’ve heard they are appalled that they didn’t find this out on their own and the kind of reaction I’m getting, I assume that most of the professors assumed he wasn’t going to be sticking around, that there was a mistake made, obviously.”

Bujarski said he was surprised at the apparent lack of a background check.

“I don’t know what the school’s policy is on that, but one of my teachers said if they did a background check on her when she was hired she wasn’t aware of it,” he said. “If the school’s not doing background checks, that’s a problem I think.”

Debbie Dutch Kelley, Southern’s human resources director, said criminal background checks during the hiring process are done by request, when asked Friday. She said department heads sometimes request a background check on an applicant.

Southern officials have largely declined to comment on the matter. Dr. Beverly Block, who serves as interim dean of the school of business, said Thursday she couldn’t provide any information and that she didn’t know if or when she would be able to comment, and Dr. AJ Anglin, vice president for academic affairs, said Thursday he had been made aware of a potential problem with a faculty member, but declined to get into specifics. Accounting department head Dr. David Smith could not be reached by phone.

Rod Anderson, chairman of the Board of Governors, said he wouldn’t make any comments on personnel matters after Friday’s monthly Board meeting. The Governors met in closed session for more than an hour following the open portion of their meeting to discuss hiring, firing and disciplining personnel, but Anderson declined to say whether their closed discussion was limited to one employee.

“I can’t get into that,” he said.

Asked when he became aware of Katz’s embezzlement history, Anderson also declined to say.

“I can’t get into that either,” he said. “That’s a personnel matter. I won’t discuss it.”

Katz has not responded to a Chart request for comment sent by e-mail to his University-issued e-mail address.

Bujarski said his intention was not to embarrass anyone, and that he hoped Southern would learn from the situation.

“This school seems to have a reputation for slurking around in the shadows and kind of operating with a shroud of secrecy and not willing to be open and transparent,” he said. “I just think that creates a culture that’s not good for the campus. I think the way this is being dealt with now is kind of systemic and related to that. My hope would be that I could be going to a school where when something like this happened they would be willing to step out and say ‘Hey, we made a mistake.’ If they had come out and done that last week when they found out about this, this story wouldn’t be a story.

“It just seems this campus is trying to cover its tail on a lot of things,” he added. “It’s not good. I hope it’s something they can learn from, something that will cause them to be more willing to do the right thing and gain the trust of the faculty and staff and students again.”

According to court documents in Ohio, Katz’s teaching job at Southern is only temporary. In a motion seeking permission to travel to Missouri, Katz told the judge his salary would “nearly double, and it will allow him to advance the completion of his restitution at an earlier date.”

Katz said his permanent residence would remain in Stow, Ohio, according to the documents, and he anticipated the job beginning in January. He plans to return to Stow for the summer, before coming back to Southern to teach in the fall 2011 semester.