June 9, 2009 10:35AM

The Stimulating Story of Dr. Robert Felner

In 2003, after a stint heading up the school of education at the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Robert Felner took the same job at the University of Louisville. Two years later, he secured an earmarked federal government grant for $694,000 from the Dept. of Education, ostensibly for a vast study of Kentucky public school performance. According to federal investigators, the money ended up in Dr. Felner’s pockets instead. In fact, investigators allege that Felner and a partner in crime managed to defraud taxpayers of $2.3 million by promising to deliver educational assessment services that never materialized.

The checks and balances you might expect to have stopped this from happening were seldom checked and never balanced. And that’s what’s so stimulating about this story: Felner allegedly duped everyone involved for nearly 3 years — at a time when the $100 billion federal education stimulus package wasn’t yet a twinkle in president Obama’s eye.

Given that officials couldn’t stay on top of millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money under normal circumstances, it’s unsettling to think what is going on right now as the system is suddenly flooded with billions of new dollars.