By Mark Ackerman

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – A former professor at Colorado State University is facing a felony charge for fabricating an outside job offer to improve his status at CSU.

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Professor Brian McNaughton, 40, ran the McNaughton Lab, a biochemistry research group at CSU.

(credit: CBS)

He is now charged with attempt to influence a public official, for presenting his employers with a fictitious offer letter from the University of Minnesota in order to get more money from CSU.

The falsification was determined through a series of emails between leaders of the two schools. CBS4 obtained the conversations through a Colorado Open Records Act Request.

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

“Quite shocking indeed!” wrote Tom Hays, Professor at University of Minnesota. “I can confirm that I did not write, nor sign an offer letter to Brian McNaughton during my interim term (2014-2015) as Dean of College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota.”

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McNaughton resigned his position at CSU. In a letter to the Dean, McNaughton apologized for an “enormous mistake.” He wrote that he got the idea to fake the outside offer from colleagues.

“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 wrote. “I’m not excusing it, and I’m not excusing my own actions, but these factors are real.”

Brian McNaughton (credit: CBS)

“Upon learning of McNaughton’s assertion that others have falsified job offer letters, university officials investigated. No evidence of any other falsified letters have been found,” said CSU spokesperson Dell Rae Ciaravola.

McNaughton also referenced both financial and marital problems as reasons for the conduct.

“My client acknowledged the mistake,” said McNaughton’s lawyer Erik Fischer. “He fully paid back any and all money to CSU. Both sides thought the matter was closed.”

Fischer said his client returned the amount of the raise — roughly $4,000 per year, over four years.

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Mark Ackerman is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. Follow him on Twitter @ackermanmark