SA Scandal: There’s No App For That
The Spectrum investigates Virtual Academix, possible corruption, and SA’s missing treasurer
Published: Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
Should SA Treasurer Sikander Khan resign?
Student Association Treasurer Sikander Khan and Vice President Meghan McMonagle almost spent $300,000 of student money on a mobile application, but President JoAnna Datz stopped them.
It’s a good thing she did. Virtual Academix, the company trying to sell the app, has been engulfed in mystery and question marks since its inception.
Datz released a 100-page internal document chronicling how SA almost got duped and submitted it to police sometime in March. The District Attorney’s office investigated the case, Khan, and McMonagle, but uncovered no criminal conduct, according to a memo released by University Police.
However, since the report was released, Virtual Academix has seemingly disappeared. Despite numerous efforts by The Spectrum to reach the founder or a spokesperson, no one at the company has answered reporters’ questions. In fact, the more The Spectrum probes, the more those responsible vanish or decline to comment.
The case – which began as a secretive SA deal – has expanded beyond UB and now includes three UB alums, including a former Student Association president. It has also revealed the great schism that currently exists among the top three SA officials.
The three oversee $3.6 million in student money, but haven’t spoken in weeks and can barely stand to be in the same room with each other.
Khan, like the company in question, has vanished. He has not been in his office since at least April 5 and has not been available to the clubs to perform his duties, which include signing off on checks. He’s turned off his phone and been absent from class.
McMonagle physically turned her back on two Spectrum reporters who went to the SA office on Monday to ask for comment. She has not returned emails and failed to show up for a scheduled interview on Saturday.
Datz, who’s been the most forthcoming, spoke to The Spectrum but wouldn’t comment on the specific actions of Khan and McMonagle.
Many students around campus are wondering what is going on.
Here’s what happened:
· On Feb. 12, Khan convinced the SA Senate to approve a transfer of $300,000 from a cash and investments line to a projects line in SA’s budget.
· Khan then conducted market research and a vendor search for companies that offer mobile application technology. Khan spoke about the app and the vendors in an interview with The Spectrum on March 26.
· On Jan. 31, Virtual Academix Vice President of Corporate Development Ted Miale, a former UB student, reached out to Datz and Khan to set up a meeting to present a plan for an app.
· The meeting took place on Feb. 3, and Datz decided she didn’t want to pursue the app. Khan persisted. Datz said she thought he was pursuing it for the coming year since, at the time, he was considering running for re-election. He didn’t.
· A little over a month later, on March 13, Khan and McMonagle signed a contract with Virtual Academix for $297,500 that would get SA an app and five years of maintenance service. An SA investigation determined that the price far exceeded fair market value for such a product, which lies between $50,000 and $150,000 prior to negotiation.
By the time the SA investigation was released, The Spectrum had already launched an investigation of its own.
Investigating Virtual Academix
Everyone with connections to Virtual Academix is hiding. They’ve either lawyered up or remain unreachable, much like Khan and McMonagle.
Everyone, that is, except Miale, the former UB student who served as the company’s vice president. But he did try to hide.
On Saturday, The Spectrum reached out to him on Facebook and LinkedIn. By Monday morning, he had deleted or hidden both profiles and became a virtual ghost. The Spectrum then contacted his full-time employer – Linium.
Linium Managing Partner Joe Burke left a voice message for The Spectrum Monday afternoon, saying,“[Linium doesn’t] have any knowledge of the situation or what is going on. This is a personal matter that Ted is involved with. This isn't even the kind of work we do as a consulting firm…Linium is not involved, engaged, or endorsing this work Ted is doing.”