OU Will Not Buy Leased President’s Residence

Posted on:

< < Back to

Ohio University Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Golding announced Monday that he will not recommend a purchase option for 31 Coventry Lane to the OU Board of Trustees. The decision to not purchase the home to serve as housing for OU President Roderick McDavis and his wife came after it was discovered that the owner of the home had made a verbal commitment of a gift to OU’s athletic program prior to negotiations on leasing the home.

On March 13, the OU Board approved a resolution authorizing Golding to find alternative housing for the McDavises — partly due to a bat infestation at the president’s residence at 29 Park Place. The university is obligated to provide the McDavises with housing under the president’s employment contract.

Soon after, the OU Foundation entered into a lease agreement with a purchase option for 31 Coventry Lane in the Sycamore Hills subdivision of Athens. According to a news release from Golding on Monday, the agreement allowed OU to “move expeditiously to provide alternative housing for the president and Mrs. McDavis while 29 Park Place is assessed and the identified concerns are mitigated.”

“The purchase option included as part of the lease agreement, if exercised, is an opportunity for the Ohio University Foundation to buy 31 Coventry Lane only after a thorough due diligence, assessment, and appraisal process is undertaken,” Golding wrote. The lease agreement was signed on March 19.

According to Golding, well after entering into the agreement, he was informed that OU employees in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics not involved with the negotiation of the lease-purchase agreement received an unsolicited verbal communication from the owner of 31 Coventry Lane in which he “expressed his intention to continue paying on a previous pledge and to make a future gift to the university.”

The home is owned by John and Joyce Wharton.

“This information was not shared with any member of the university’s negotiating team, including myself, before the lease-purchase contract was signed on March 19,” Golding wrote.

Golding said that this verbal commitment from Wharton was discovered by Bryan Benchoff, president and CEO of the OU Foundation, on March 26 while compiling documents in connection with a public records request. Golding said that Benchoff immediately shared that information with Golding and OU General Counsel John Biancamano.

“I informed the chair and vice chair of the board of trustees the next day,” Golding wrote.

“In order to avoid even an appearance of impropriety,” Golding said he has informed the chairperson of the Board and the chairman of the Foundation Board that he will not ask for either board to exercise the purchase option on 31 Coventry Lane. He said the decision is made regardless of the results of the assessment of 29 Park Place that will occur in the coming months.

“I have also notified the owner of the property of this decision,” Golding concluded.

Golding, McDavis, Biancamano and Benchoff will hold a press conference regarding the decision this afternoon.

Here’s a link to Golding’s official statement.