College Athletics Department Photographer Accused of Abusing Taxpayer Funds

College Athletics Department Photographer Accused of Abusing Taxpayer Funds

The chief photographer of the University of Tennessee (UT) Athletics Department has been accused of "abus[ing] university work time and equipment for his personal benefit" by getting paid to photograph non-UT athletes for other schools while working for UT.

The office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury released the findings of an investigation into the photographer, named by a source close to the investigation as Donald Page. The Treasury investigation found that Page used UT equipment and UT student assistants to photograph other universities' athletes during events when he was supposed to be on the job as a UT photographer.  For his duplicitous efforts, Page was found to have received at least $9,240 in compensation from outside organizations while on the clock for UT and nearly $6,500 in compensation from outside organizations during off-hours. The investigation reviewed records from February 2014 through June 2017.

The Treasury report concludes that Page's actions may not have necessarily violated university policy but at least "resulted in a waste and/or abuse of taxpayer funds." The University of Tennessee is a public school, paid for by the taxpaying public. Page is a state employee with a reported salary of $56,661 per year.

Page has been on paid administrative leave since June 15, 2017 and his employment status is uncertain, potentially pending the results of a further investigation or hearing by the university.

Lead image by Joel Kramer (Creative Commons 2.0 license)

[via WBIR and Knox News]

Aneesh Kothari's picture

Aneesh Kothari is a Houston-based travel, landscape, and cityscape photographer. He enjoys reading, traveling with his family, and making lists of things he enjoys. He yearns to be a Civil War buff but has yet to finish the Ken Burns series.

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" paid administrative leave", private sector job would have fired him for using company gear alone if it wasn't known and permitted.

This is a big deal. Why? Unfair competitive advantage.

The gear* he used was likely bought by the school with taxpayer funded money. Software? Likely the same thing. Healthcare? Retirement? Workshops/training? Benefits? Dunno, but all are common for a state employee.

So, if a photographer doesn't have to pay for their equipment, or any of those other elements… think how unfair a competitive advantage a photog like this has over the rest of us who DO have to cover all those costs on our own dime… while at the same time we're paying for the stuff he uses to compete with us.

This is not isolated. I've run into this with numerous non-profit entities who have media departments who go out and bid in the marketplace as if they were a for-profit business. Very unfair competitive (and tax sheltered + tax-funded) advantage.

Well, it's not against the law in this instance. It may be stretching his privilege, but to take it to the level of 'unfair competitive advantage' is another major stretch.

What about a rich kid whose parents' foot the bill for their gear? Unfair, or "that's life"? Would you call unfair advantage there as well?

That this was on the public's dime is also debateable considering the source of the funding. Meaning, for the big sports schools, they're their own source of funding- tv contracts, bowl revenues, tickets, merchandise, etc. As Tennessee is a major SEC university, I wouldn't doubt their football program is turning the profit and putting it back into the school. Ergo, the equipement may be funded by a profit-generating athletic program... and may not be sourced by public funds. If you match the cost of the gear to what part of the university it's benefitting, it's part of the p/l. (I should represent this guy in the investigation ;) )