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Grants Helped Pay for Reception : Stanford: Part of $17,000 cost for event introducing university president’s new wife was charged to an account supported by federal research monies. The bill has been withdrawn, the official says.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Stanford University official acknowledged Friday that part of the $17,000 cost of a reception for President Donald Kennedy and his new wife in 1987 had been charged to an account supported by federal research grants.

But he said the charge, representing about $4,000, is being voluntarily withdrawn, as have more than $600,000 in other charges for such controversial items as wine, flowers and antiques that the university said last month were either mistaken or not worth contesting.

Larry N. Horton, the university’s associate vice president of public affairs, said the Stanford Board of Trustees in December, 1987, had hosted a reception at Hoover House, the president’s residence, to introduce Kennedy’s wife, Robin Hamill Kennedy, to the university community.

Horton disputed any suggestion that the event represented a taxpayer financed “wedding reception,” and defended the event as “appropriate.”

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“It’s very important to note that this was not a personal wedding reception,” he said. “The temptation to call it that seems to be overpowering. But the trustees were exercising a legitimate desire to introduce the wife of the president to faculty, deans and friends of Stanford.

“The president and his wife form a team that does an enormous amount of work in entertaining and hosting important events,” Horton said.

Neither Kennedy nor Stanford Board of Trustees President James C. Gaither were immediately available for comment.

While the amount at issue is relatively small, the disclosure represented another potentially embarrassing chapter in the federal investigation of Stanford’s accounting procedures and of as much as $200 million in disputed payments the government has made to the university in the past decade.

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Last week, the inspector general of the Office of Naval Research said the university appeared to have overcharged the government for research overhead costs but that allegations the school owes the taxpayers as much as $200 million are based on faulty calculations. Congressional hearings into the matter are scheduled to begin March 15 in Washington. The Kennedys were married at a religious ceremony off campus in November, 1987, and a reception was held at a Palo Alto hotel immediately afterward, with Kennedy personally paying the expense.

According to Horton, the trustees later sponsored the other reception, attended by about 400 guests. That event, he said, was paid for out of funds from an account that supports works of Stanford trustees.

Horton said that under a standard accounting practice, the trustees account is included in a larger pool of operational costs for instruction, research and other programs. Through a series of complex procedures, costs for food and entertainment--which may not be reimbursed by the government--are deducted from the pool. And of the remaining costs, only 23% are charged to the federal government.

Horton defended the accounting procedure as “common and well established.” But, in a statement, he acknowledged that “questions have been raised about the appropriateness of some of the items” included in the pool.

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The policy Stanford announced last month of voluntarily removing all costs claimed for operations at Hoover House since 1981, applies to the trustees’ reception for Kennedy, Horton said.

Times education writer Larry Gordon contributed to this report.


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