Inspector General Asks for Records Related to OU President’s New Residence

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The Ohio inspector general has asked Ohio University for records related to a lease-purchase agreement entered into for a new residence for OU President Roderick McDavis.

Inspector General Randall Meyer has also instructed the university not to destroy any records related to the matter.

The Ohio University Foundation entered into a lease-purchase agreement March 19 for a home at 31 Coventry Lane that is owned by Athens realtor John Wharton to serve as a residence for McDavis and his wife. Later, the university announced that the foundation would not buy the home because it wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety because Wharton had indicated he would continue paying on a previous pledge to Ohio University and make a future gift of $100,000. The university has asserted that those who negotiated the lease-purchase agreement were unaware of Wharton’s offer of an additional gift.

Although it has decided not the buy the residence, the foundation continues to lease the house at 31 Coventry Lane, where the McDavises now live.

The inspector general’s letter is dated April 27 and was received by the university’s attorney, John Biancamano, on May 4.

The letter asks that Ohio University provide to the inspector general all records regarding 31 Coventry Lane — and regarding donations and pledges made by John and Joyce Wharton — that OU has provided to the media and others in response to public records requests.

In a May 5 email to the Office of the Inspector General, Biancamano said he was sending with the email a press statement issued by OU on April 13 (announcing the house would not be bought), a list of gifts to OU from Wharton and Wharton-related entities and a donor contact report (related to Wharton’s verbal commitment to make the additional donation). Biancamano also tells the inspector general’s office he will be sending discs containing emails sent to various news outlets in response to public records requests.

Inspector General Randall Meyer also asks in the April 27 letter that the university preserve records dating from Jan. 1, 2014 that relate to:

• 31 Coventry Lane, including appraisal records, assessments, inspections, negotiations and lease agreements.

• Other property considered for presidential housing.

• Pledges and donations made by John and/or Joyce Wharton.

• All financial records involving the lease-purchase of 31 Coventry Lane and pledges or donations made by the Whartons.

• All moving records involving 31 Coventry Lane, including moving negotiation records, agreements and contracts.

“If you automatically dispose of any of the aforementioned records pursuant to a record’s retention policy, please suspend doing so until further notice,” Meyer wrote. He also asks that if the policy has resulted in electronic records being destroyed, that OU try to recover those records.

The Messenger contacted the Office of the Inspector General on Wednesday.

Carl Enslen, state deputy inspector general, would not say whether the office has opened an investigation or whether it has requested the records in order to determine if it wants to open an investigation.

“We don’t (publicly) discuss those things,” Enslen said.

Biancamano said the university does not know if an investigation is under way or being contemplated. He said the April 27 letter from Meyer is the only communication the university has received from the Office of the Inspector General.

“We know nothing,” Biancamano said.

In general terms, the Office of the Inspector General is tasked with looking into allegations of wrongful conduct in state agencies, which would include public universities.

The Messenger reported on April 21 that the website of the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors called for the Office of the Inspector General or the Ohio Ethics Commission to investigate possible ethical violations and financial malfeasance related to the lease-purchase agreement.