Friday, August 3, 2018

Former CSU professor McNaughton charged by Larimer County on July 2

A couple of further details about the Brian McNaughton case at Colorado State (article by Nick Coltrain of the Fort Collins Coloradoan) (note that Anon0831AM had this story on July 13):
In July 2017, Colorado State University chemistry professor Brian McNaughton confessed to forging an offer letter and using it as leverage to secure a $5,000 raise and better investment in his lab from the university. 
After initially pushing for him to resign shortly after discovering the forgery, CSU decided to let him stay on staff for almost another year, enough time to land a job at the University of Delaware. 
The University of Delaware has since rescinded its job offer to McNaughton and scrubbed him from its faculty website, where he had been listed as recently as Wednesday morning, and Larimer County has charged him with attempting to influence a public servant, a Class 4 felony. 
In 2017, CSU received an anonymous letter accusing McNaughton of forging the offer letter. On June 29 of that year, and two years after McNaughton delivered the forged offer letter, CSU Vice Provost Dan Bush sought to establish its veracity.... 
...McNaughton was charged with the felony July 2. Shortly after, media reports emerged. The University of Delaware rescinded its offer to McNaughton on July 9, just a couple weeks before his scheduled start day there.\
I'm more than a little bit flummoxed that the Larimer County DA is following through with this felony charge, but something tells me that his attorney will manage to have Dr. McNaughton avoid jail time. (According to this Colorado criminal defense attorney blogpost, the maximum punishment is 2-6 years, with a $2000-$500000 fine.) I'd love to know who (either the DA or Colorado State University) is the driving force for pressing charges - it just seems so unusual. 

9 comments:

  1. I'm no lawyer and I think his actions are moronic, but how is "attempting to influence a public servant" a felony? He's not even being charged with forgery, which I thought is typically a misdemeanor.

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  2. If his nagging (according to McNauhgton) wife wanted more money from him , her actions have appeared to have backfired.

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  3. Yes, forgery is stupid, etc. On the other side of the coin, if he wasn't worth the increased salary to CSU on the strength of his qualifications, why did they offer him a raise? If it's just because he looked like a shiny object that another Uni wanted to poach, so they decided to keep him, that's on them.

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    1. exactly. "Hey! You tricked us!"

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    2. There's a vested financial interest for the university to give a raise for retention, due to the sunk costs of startup funds. Especially a smaller raise, like this.

      Imagine a school's given $500k in startup funds, which is unrecoverable and likely spent on things that can't easily be re-purposed for a new hire. It's worth the raise for retention just to keep that expenditure worthwhile, not to mention the headaches of dealing with students that need to be re-assigned.

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    3. "It's worth the raise for retention just to keep that expenditure worthwhile"

      Am I wrong in thinking that this is a classic sunk cost fallacy?, we must spend $5000 to justify our past expenditure of $500000?

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    4. I don't see this as a sunk cost. I see it as spending 5K to avoid having to spend another 500K on the replacement's startup costs.

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  4. I suspect this is a new trend: prosecuting people for lying on job applications. There have already been successful prosecutions for people who lied about college degrees, despite being in some cases hired and promoted upwards. Wouldn't it be nice if the responsibility for a bad hire fell on the applicant instead of the hiring manager? Maybe the criminal justice system can be persuaded to enforce it.

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    1. Delaware pulled his job offer, and anyone considering hiring him can Google the whole mess. I think the guy has suffered enough at this point.

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