Douglas Peterson, a former Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources professor, was forced to retire from the University of Georgia on Oct. 31, 2018.

Douglas Peterson, the former University of Georgia professor who was forced to retire last year for profiting off the sale of UGA-produced caviar, will pay back about $218,000 to the university, according to a UGA statement. 

Peterson, who for years oversaw UGA’s farm-raised sturgeon caviar program, was investigated by UGA’s Internal Auditing Division and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation for charging an unauthorized “consulting fee” when selling the caviar.

Because the full amount that Peterson made over the years was not known when a separation agreement between Peterson and UGA was signed last August, the agreement mandated that Peterson pay $85,000 back to UGA by Jan. 31 of this year.

In the agreement, Peterson agreed to cooperate with IAD investigators to determine the full balance. Peterson told IAD during the investigation that he estimated the balance could be around $200,000.

The entire amount — now determined to be $218,735 — must be paid by Sept. 31, per the agreement. As of the July 18 statement, Peterson still had $133,735 left to pay. The $85,000 paid so far was paid “according to the agreed upon schedule,” according to the statement, which was provided in response to an open records request.

According to the IAD report, Peterson sold caviar produced at UGA facilities with UGA resources for $35 an ounce. Only $18 per ounce was going to the university — the rest was diverted to Peterson or a company in his and his wife's name. Peterson was also investigated for using a UGA-owned boat for recreational use.

In addition to paying back the money he made off the caviar operation, the separation agreement barred Peterson from applying to work at other University System of Georgia institutions and precluded any lawsuits against UGA or USG.

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