FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – A former professor at Colorado State University is facing a felony charge for fabricating an outside job offer to improve his status at CSU. Professor Brian McNaughton, 40, ran the McNaughton Lab, a biochemistry research group at CSU.
He is now charged with attempt to influence a public official, for presenting his employers with a fictitious offer letter from the University of Minnesota in order to get more money from CSU.
The falsification was determined through a series of emails between leaders of the two schools. CBS4 obtained the conversations through a Colorado Open Records Act Request.
“It is my understanding this letter is simply a fake,” wrote Dr. Dan Bush, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at CSU. “Needless to say we are shocked and dismayed that one of our faculty would fabricate such a letter to advance the status at CSU.” “Quite shocking indeed!” wrote Tom Hays, Professor at University of Minnesota. “I can confirm that I did not write, nor sign an offer letter to Brian McNaughton during my interim term (2014-2015) as Dean of College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.”
McNaughton resigned his position at CSU. In a letter to the Dean, McNaughton apologized for an “enormous mistake.” He wrote that he got the idea to fake the outside offer from colleagues.
“It was openly stated that multiple former CSU faculty (now either dead or no longer affiliated with CSU) lied about an outside offer as a mechanism to improve their salary,” McNaughton wrote. “I’m not excusing it, and I’m not excusing my own actions, but these factors are real.”From conversations with professors at research universities, I have heard departments basically demand an outside offer before considering a pay raise. That said, I think this is reasonably common in many industries (particularly financially-related industries?). I imagine that the demanded raises are relatively large (greater than 10%?)
I do think it is interesting that this ultimately got caught - I wonder when that happened? I suspect that non-email conversations were how this was uncovered, i.e. one department member saying to a friend in the other one, "say, I heard you guys made Prof. McNaughton an offer?" and the response was "uh, what offer?
It's also interesting that Prof. McNaughton claims that faking outside offers was common - I would love to know the backstory on that claim as well...
UPDATE: Anon838 notes The Chronicle of Higher Education has McNaughton's letter. Might offer some insight into his state of mind.
Also, the article makes a vague comment about felony charges. Who is pressing charges? The university?