The man selected to run Marion County's troubled Juvenile Detention Center has a master's degree from a "diploma mill" shut down by the Federal Trade Commission.
Troy Hoppes, 36, claims he did course work over the Internet to earn the degree from the University of Ravenhurst in New York.
But New York and national education officials say Ravenhurst was an online university that had no campus and did not require academic work -- instead selling degrees through call centers in Israel and Romania.
Marion Superior Court officials who hired Hoppes last week touted the degree as one of the attributes that made him stand out among about 30 candidates, even though it wasn't required for the job.
Officials said Thursday that they are standing behind Hoppes, who is scheduled to begin the $80,000-a-year job Oct. 9 . . .
"Troy was not hired on the basis of his master's degree. He was hired because he has a proven track record and experience with juveniles," said Court Administrator Ron Miller. "We don't believe it's a character issue, a moral issue or anything else. I think this is really a nonissue."
If you take a look at Evans' and Richard Walton's original report on Hoppes' hiring, the red flags were already going up in their minds. The two of them wrote last week:
A range of checks turned up little information about Hoppes' experience Friday. A Vision Quest spokesman declined to provide information without a release from him.
People who had worked with Hoppes in his past positions could not be reached late Friday. Marion County officials said they did not have a copy of his resume available. They said Hoppes formerly worked for the police in Hastings, Neb., a town of about 25,000 residents west of Lincoln. The department has about 30 officers, according to its Web site.
Hoppes has been a bike patrol officer and physical fitness trainer and worked with drunken-driving enforcement. He also has experience in child abuse investigation.
Hats off to Evans for following up on this important detail--one that obviously escaped the attention of the people who have been failing so miserably in their oversight of the Juvenile Detention Center. I'm sorry, but anyone who represents that they have a master's degree in psychology knowing that it is a phony degree does not deserve the public's trust. When you put that degree on your resume, you are wilfully misrepresenting your academic credentials to anyone who looks at your resume. If you're willing to misrepresent your academic qualifications, what else are you capable of misrepresenting?
Well, plenty. After being called out on the phony degree, Hoppes had the audacity to claim that it was legitimately earned. Evans writes:
"I'm telling you," he said, "I completed the courses required by the university to receive my degree legitimately."
Hoppes said he did research-based assignments, participated in virtual classroom sessions and received credit for professional and life experiences over an approximately one-year period before receiving a degree in 2002.
But a retired FBI agent who has tracked degree mills for the past decade said that's contrary to everything he knows about Ravenhurst, which also sold transcripts and letters of recommendation.
"Ain't no way," said Allen Ezell, co-author of the book "Degree Mills: The Billion Dollar Industry That Has Sold More Than One Million Fake Degrees."
"They aren't set up for that. There was no faculty. They were all salesmen."
Because Marion Co. officials were providing Hoppes cover by saying that they did not rely on the master's degree in their decision to hire him, Hoppes should have fessed up to how he earned the degree. Instead, he chose to make something of it that it most certainly was not. In so doing, he's dug his own grave. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when at first we practice to deceive.