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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Former Department of Accounting professor still on probation

Chico State administration conducted an investigation into accounting professors Timothy Kizirian and Jeffrey Decker and accounting department secretary Ronda McGrath which revealed around $1.12 million had been misallocated
Timothy Kizirian, shown above, was investigated by the university in 2019 and sentenced to pay a criminal restitution and two-year probation in 2023. Courtesy: Butte County District Attorney’s Office

A former Chico State Department of Accounting professor and chair, Timothy Kizirian, is halfway through his court-mandated probation after being charged with misallocating funds in 2023.

His probation started in May 2023 and will end in May 2025.  

Three Department of Accounting faculty and staff members were investigated at the beginning of 2019 when the then-new dean of the College of Business, Terrence Lau, blew the whistle after noticing misallocated funds. Kizirian remains on probation for these incidents. 

Chico State administration conducted an investigation into accounting professors Kizirian and Jeffrey Decker and accounting department secretary Ronda McGrath which revealed around $1.12 million had been misallocated through spending such as duplicate compensation, gift card purchases, fraudulent mileage claims, improper travel and personal expenses, a Butte County District Attorney’s Office press release said. 

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said the California State University’s audit report found the following funds had been misallocated at least as far back as 2013:

  • $890,000 of additional compensation was paid for unsubstantiated work or work not within policy parameters
  • $90,000 of misuse of allowing research and extracurricular work to substitute for teaching hours
  • $2,500 of questionable gift card purchases
  • $1,700 of fraudulent mileage claims paid with state and University Foundation funds
  • $14,000 for personal travel paid with state funds and UF funds
  • $26,000 in personal expenses including meals, hospitality and gifts
  • $30,000 in excessive hospitality expenses
  • $68,000 in unreported absences

After the university’s investigation ended in 2020, all three suspects were suspended. McGrath voluntarily resigned and retired in January 2021, Decker resigned in August 2021 and Kizirian was dismissed in June 2021, which he attempted to contest. It was overturned.

The university then turned the investigation over to the Chico Police Department. Their investigation revealed patterns of “criminal fraud and manipulation” going back to 2013.

The first court date, an initial arraignment for the three suspects, was set for January 2022.

During a preliminary hearing in February 2023, a judge determined there was not enough evidence to pursue charges against Decker, a Butte County DA’s office press release stated.

In March, McGrath pled to misdemeanor grand theft and agreed to pay over $1,000 in criminal restitution.

The press release stated Ramsey said “McGrath’s misdemeanor disposition was appropriate given her reduced culpability as determined by the investigation, and significantly lower losses to the university directly attributable to her.”

Kizirian entered his plea on the same day that McGrath entered a felony plea and stipulated to pay over $26,500 in criminal restitution.

He was originally charged with six counts of grand theft of personal/real property over $950. He pled not guilty to five of those counts — which were eventually dismissed — and no contest to the sixth, Butte County Superior Court documents state.

Kizirian was sentenced in May of 2023; he faced up to three years in jail, however the presiding judge sentenced him to 90 days in jail. The days would be suspended if Kizirian completed his probation without committing any violations and attended a theft awareness class, a Butte County DA’s office press release stated.

Kizirian paid the criminal restitution and an over $400 court fee with a credit card on his way out of the courthouse, the press release stated.

The press release stated the original charges against Kizirian “represented a small subset of the activities revealed by the University’s internal auditors.”

However, most of the activities found represented situations “where Kizirian exploited lax oversight by the University.”

Many activities were not by themselves illegal or “were situations where evidence was insufficient to obtain a criminal conviction.”

The lax oversight included insufficient management and accounting controls and inadequate policy safeguards that allowed Kizirian to work or not work pretty much at his discretion – i.e. not ethical or particularly honest, but not clearly done with criminal and fraudulent intent,” Ramsey said.

During the investigation, the release states Kizirian did not take responsibility for his actions and “instead claimed he was the subject of employment discrimination by the University.”

In turn, Chico State, in a victim impact statement stated that, “Kizirian’s actions irreparably harmed not only the University, students, taxpayers, and donors but also the community that considers Chico State’s credibility and reputation as a source of pride and economic vitality.”

Since the lengthy investigation, Andrew Staples, the university’s public relations manager, said “the College of Business has instituted additional controls, oversight, and transparency into its budgeting and spending processes.”

Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected] or [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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