The California Institute of Human Services, the defunct Sonoma State University organization under investigation by local, state and federal authorities, was once a thriving department working with $22 million a year in grants and employing 125 workers.
Today, three years after SSU auditors uncovered discrepancies in institute finances its top officers have been fired and only one of its grant programs remains on campus.
"There were grants that were about to expire, and we didn't renew those," said Susan Kashack, associate vice president. "There were grants in the process of being taken other places, so those went. There were some grants that have a farther end date; they stayed with us."
The institute was founded in 1979 by SSU professor Tony Apolloni. It operated as a distinct SSU department at the same level as any SSU academic department, with Apolloni serving as the associate vice president.
It was given much more latitude, however. It had its own financial offices apart from SSU's finance department and the institute had broad authority from the university to administer the grants.
It was a money-maker for the university, which received "indirect costs" from each of the grants by billing for the overhead costs, Kashack said.
"This institute was all grant funded, there was no other kind of funding," she said. "It generated something called indirect costs. When you have grant, a certain portion of it is overhead, things like accounting, human services, all kinds of services needed to run a grant."
Operating strictly with state and federal grants, institute employees worked with SSU faculty, staff and students to provide program planning and evaluation focusing on family violence prevention, early childhood education, language development and literacy.
The largest program is the federal Head Start Family Literacy Center, a $15 million, five-year grant that is still operated on campus by the SSU administration and finance department. This year the grant, which expires in September and may not be renewed, is worth $4 million.
Another grant was for a program to recruit students for the AmeriCorps.
In 2006, the institute had grants totaling $22 million and 125 workers at SSU, at an off-campus office in Rohnert Park and in offices at state university campuses at San Marco and the Channel Islands.
It's rapid growth also prompted an SSU audit that led in early 2007 to SSU taking over financial oversight and the suspension of Apolloni and George Trieste of Sebastopol, the institute's managing director.
Apolloni, who was paid $153,120 a year, and Trieste, who earned $125,532 a year, were subsequently dismissed.
The SSU audit identified $2.1 million that may have been misspent, a subsequent California State University audit raised that to $2.4 million and SSU officials later cautioned it could reach $3.6 million.
The majority of the questionable practices involved inappropriate billings to the Head Start program, according to the CSU audit.
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