by: Richard Belcher Updated:
ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned that Georgia Tech has fired three leading researchers for violating university policies governing business ethics and conflicts of interest.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned the firings come as the FBI is investigating allegations of misspending at Tech.
There is nothing in the documents Belcher obtained that directly links the firings to the ongoing FBI investigation at the Georgia Tech Research Institute. But we know the federal investigation continues.
We know the three researchers were plance on leave soon after Georgia Tech's own auditors raised questions about spending at the research institute.
GTRI brought in more than $600 million in research contracts in the past two years, much of it secret work for the U.S. military.
The institute says it solves problems no one else can. But there is no solution in sight for what may become the worst public scandal in the institute's history.
Channel 2 Action News broke the story that Tech's own auditors documented serious purchasing abuses.
Apparently, because of all the federal money flowing into GRTI, those abuses attracted the FBI. We've now learned that three highly recognized researchers have been fired.
James Maloney had the title
"principal research engineer." John Schultz was chief of the Materials branch of the institute's Signature Technology Lab. James Acree was a senior research engineer and a former naval test pilot.
All three were suspended with pay in November. On Feb. 27, all three were dismissed.
They received identical letters citing clear violations of policies including:
- Unallowable costs
- Business ethics
- Conflict of interest
Belcher found an address for Maloney in east Cobb County, but the home was empty.
He tracked Acree to an address in Sandy Springs. A vehicle out front still displays a Georgia Tech parking pass, but no one responded when Belcher knocked on the door.
Two other employees of the research institute left after the initial audit last fall. A third GRTI employee was placed on leave.
Tech has declined comment other than to say the investigation is still underway. The FBI also declined comment.