Wayland fires CFO for alleged theft

Wayland Baptist University launched an investigation amid concerns about handling of money for a new dormitory named after country-music entertainer and sausage magnate Jimmy Dean.

By Bob Allen

A Texas Baptist university has fired and sued its chief financial officer over alleged financial mismanagement.

wayland james smithWayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, filed a civil lawsuit April 24 against James E. Smith in Hale County District Court, according to a statement on the school’s website. The school affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas said Smith, CFO since 2001, was dismissed April 11 and suspended March 13 for violations of university policy.

University officials said in a court affidavit that Smith admitted to embezzling about $40,000 over a four-year period. According to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Smith told Executive Vice President and Provost Bobby Hall that he had been using university funds to pay personal debts and that he didn’t have money to pay it back.

Hall’s affidavit said university officials began an internal investigation after a financial review of one campus building renovation and construction of Jimmy Dean Hall, a new men’s dormitory. The dormitory is named after a country music singer and television host popular in the 1960s now better known for the sausage company he founded in 1969.

Dean, who died in 2010, was born in born in Olton, Texas, and raised by his mother. He attributed his interest in music to singing as a child at Seth Ward Baptist Church in Plainview. He dropped out of high school to join the Merchant Marines in order to support his family, but always believed that education was a key to success.

Jimmy and Donna Dean originally gave $1 million to Wayland in 2008. In 2012, an additional $5 million was donated. Most of the money has been earmarked for a planned addition to the university museum to house Jimmy Dean memorabilia.

Jimmy Dean Hall is a three-story, 94,000-square-foot structure with 175 rooms and 300 beds that features the latest in “green” technologies and safety features. The dorm opened to students last fall. Wayland invited the public to an open house to view and tour the new facility April 28.

Wayland officials said their investigation is ongoing and that they will cooperate with police if criminal charges are filed.