Professor faked job offer from U of M to get a raise. Now he’s charged with a felony

It’s pretty tough to get ahead in today’s working world, so we have to admire the pluck of Brian McNaughton, an associate professor at Colorado State University.

He wanted a raise and companies aren’t dishing them out much these days.

So, in 2015, he told the university that he had an offer from the University of Minnesota and — Voila! — Colorado State offered him a $5,000 raise.

There was just one problem, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education: The U of M had made no such offer. McNaughton had faked a letter that he showed his employer.

McNaughton is now available if you’re interested, University of Minnesota. He resigned under pressure.

But Colorado State is sending a message to its other professors. It’s charging McNaughton with a crime. And not just a crime: a felony.

The school is charging him with attempting to influence a public official.

“Needless to say we are shocked and dismayed that one of our faculty would fabricate such a letter to advance the status at CSU,” Dr. Dan Bush, Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs at CSU, wrote in a letter to the professor.

“It was openly stated that multiple former CSU faculty (now either dead or no longer affiliated with CSU) lied about an outside offer as a mechanism to improve their salary,” McNaughton responded in a 2017 apology, saying he’s had financial and marital problems. “I’m not excusing it, and I’m not excusing my own actions, but these factors are real.”

McNaughton, 40, ran the McNaughton Lab, a biochemistry research group at CSU. He has paid back $4,000 of his raise and his lawyer says he and his client thought the matter was closed.

Apparently, this is what professors have to do to get raises, judging by reaction to McNaughton’s story from others in higher education.

“The only way you can get a raise and increased status is by receiving a job offer,” one professor commenting on the higher education reporting website Inside Higher Ed. “If he was worth the extra $4k why wasn’t he worth it before they thought he was receiving another offer?”

“I’ve brought strong candidates to campus (significant time and money) and made offers only to learn that the candidate used it to get a better deal at their current job – they were never really interested in our position,” says another academic who worked with a provost at another university.

(h/t: Tracy Mumford)