Ohio Auditor: Wright State improperly spent money on former consultant

Wright State University paid tens of thousands of dollars to a former consultant when it shouldn’t have, a report released today from the Ohio Auditor’s office states.

Ron Wine Consulting Group LLC was paid $73,750 by the university from April 2013 to July 2013 for invoices associated with a purchase order, according to the audit. The auditor’s office has issued a “finding for recovery,” meaning the money was illegally spent, according to state law.

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The finding was issued because the audit found that WSU did not enter into an agreement with the consulting group that would have defined the scope of services it was to perform. Invoices submitted by the consulting group did not provide documentation with details of the work performed, according to the report.

The audit report also found former provost Sundaram Narayanan and Ryan Fendley, former director of strategic initiatives for WSU, to be jointly liable for the $73,750.

Narayanan was fired in June 2018 by the WSU board of trustees after being on paid leave in a faculty position for more than three years. Narayanan and Fendley were two of four administrators placed on paid leave in May 2015 when a federal investigation was launched into violations of immigration laws at WSU, which the university settled for $1 million in November.

WSU spokesman Seth Bauguess declined to comment on the audit’s finding due to pending litigation with Wine’s consulting firm.

As Wright State’s consultant, Ron Wine said he brought in at least $134.7 million — $69.5 million in federal funding and $65.2 million in state funding — but was only paid $2.2 million of the $6.7 million he was owed when his work was terminated in 2016.

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Wine has filed a lawsuit against the school for $4.5 million claiming he had a verbal contract with former WSU president David Hopkins obligating the school to pay him 5 percent of every dollar he helped bring in. Hopkins has denied making such a deal, though at least one university administrator says Wine was paid under it.

An Ohio Inspector General's investigation that concluded in December 2017 resulted in a report questioning $1.8 million of the $2.2 million WSU paid Wine.

Wine’s multi-million dollar lawsuit was filed as the university fights to keep financial woes from dragging it down. Years of overspending forced WSU to reduce its expenses by around $53 million in fiscal year 2018, marking the first time in six years the school didn’t spend more money than it brought in.


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