Prof accused of double-dipping resigns

Francois Sainfort stepped down from a head position of a division in the School of Public Health.
September 10, 2008

University professor Francois Sainfort stepped down from his position in August during investigations into him receiving payment from two universities at the same time.

He was the head of the Division of Health Policy and Management at the School of Public Health.

Sainfort and his wife Julie Jacko are still under investigation from the Georgia Attorney General and the University’s Office of the General Counsel for holding paid positions at both Georgia Tech and the University.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said there’s a difference between Georgia’s investigation, which is a criminal case, and the University’s, which is purely from an administrative standards and practices perspective.

He also said he was confident the issue will be resolved during the current school year.
This is not the first time the University General Counsel has dealt with issues of double-dipping. Rotenberg said allegations of employees drawing simultaneous paychecks have occurred before.

Both Sainfort and Jacko still hold faculty positions at the University.

School of Public Health Dean John Finnegan said stepping down was a personal decision on Sainfort’s part. He chose to focus on his role as a professor, realizing that he could not maintain the confidence of faculty as head of the division after the double-dipping scandal.

Finnegan said he hopes the matter will be resolved in a way that allows to Sainfort to stay at the University. He expressed concern that the professor had not been portrayed fairly, pointing out that neither Sainfort nor Jacko have been charged, tried, or convicted of anything.

“Everyone deserves their day in court” he said.

He was also disappointed with the way things have been handled on the Georgia side of the investigation.

“We’ve been very cooperative with Georgia.” Finnegan said. “Georgia has been somewhat cooperative with us. It’s frustrating for us as an institution and for Francois and Julie.”

Before coming to Minnesota from Georgia, Sainfort held the position of associate dean for interdisciplinary research in the College of Engineering.

Sainfort was seen as a key pickup for the School of Public Health. He specializes in of human-computer interaction in health care and has published more than 130 refereed publications and has served as principal investigator on more than $13 million in contracts and grants.

Rotenberg and Provost Tom Sullivan worked together to issue an Aug. 18 memo to the deans of each school.

It stressed the notion of transparency on the part of new professors, and did not mention either Sainfort or Jacko.

Reminders are issued occasionally, and the memo was not prompted by current investigations, Sharon Reich Paulson , associate vice president of academic affairs and chief of staff to the provost, said.

Finnegan said transparency is key, and that he thinks this incident will make people more sensitive to the issue.

Though the investigations of Jacko and Sainfort have received heavy news coverage, Rotenberg said that with a faculty so large, the two professors represent an extremely small portion of the entire University faculty.

“I think we have good compliance at the University with seeking simultaneous reimbursement,” Rotenberg said.

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