Texas' Austin Community College (ACC) spent more than $1.7 million on a data center in Virginia that it never used, reports KXAN.

As a result, the college's own police department kicked off an investigation into "improper business practices" in the IT department.

Austin Community College
– Austin Community College

That investigation began in March 2020 and concluded in December 2022.

Though not publicly disclosed, ACC notified the FBI, Texas Ranger Public Integrity Unit, and Travis County District Attorney's Office of the allegations and investigation.

During the investigation, it was found that the chief information officer of the ACC falsified his employment application and "misled" the college about his education and qualifications. He was placed on administrative leave in March 2021, later resigning.

The identity of said CIO was not shared in the KXAN report. One Imad Costantini was appointed VP of IT and CIO in 2018 and on his LinkedIn page has an end-of-employment date of June 2021, while current CIO Jason Marshall was promoted to the role in May 2022. It's unclear if there was anyone in the role between these two people.

According to the ACC, following a "thorough investigation," no criminal charges were filed related to the mysterious Virginia data center.

KXAN's investigation was kicked off after receiving emails from "people with knowledge" of the Virginia-based data center procurement.

ACC entered into contracts that funded server equipment, the use of space in Virginia, and Internet circuits. The college simultaneously launched a Texas-based data center - one that is actually used.

The Virginia contracts were for 36 months, from September 2020 to August 2023 with the college paying close to $48,000 per month. That brought the total to more than $1.72m.

According to the ACC, all the equipment that was paid for related to that data center is being used in other ACC locations. The college goes on to explain that the Virginia data center went unused due to "conflicting IT priorities" amid the pandemic and because of the investigation into the former CIO.

The college chose Virginia as it saw the location as likely to reduce the risk of data loss as the state is "well known for its reliable power supply and robust network infrastructure."

ACC said in a statement: “Thanks in part to open records requests filed by KXAN and conversations with faculty, staff, and administrators — the college’s new chancellor (Russell Lowery-Hart) expedited an internal audit program to provide recommendations that can better align processes and structures across all units of the college.”

“ACC takes allegations of this nature seriously and cares deeply about being good stewards,” Lowery-Hart said in a statement to KXAN. “This college has a strong history of fiscal responsibility; that doesn’t mean there isn’t space to do better. I hear your concerns, and I’ve asked for us to expedite a thorough review of our business practices and procedures.”