OSU’s Gee updates ethics report: $1 million in travel disclosed

After a Dayton Daily News investigation into Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee’s travel expenses, the university notified the Ohio Ethics Commission that Gee’s annual financial disclosure statements left out some of the expenditures.

The notice triggered a confidential review by the Ethics Commission and a decision Thursday that the omissions were inadvertent rather than intentional. Gee was given permission to add to his statements from 2007 to 2011.

Since Gee’s return to Ohio State in the fall of 2007, the university has footed the tab for $1,018,444 in travel costs for Gee, including $409,476 last year alone. The figure is roughly 20 percent higher than initially reported by Gee.

State ethics law also doesn’t require the university to disclose travel if OSU pays dues to the organization hosting the conference or event. It is unclear whether the new figure includes travel associated with those organizations.

University spokesman Jim Lynch did not return telephone and email messages seeking comment.

Gee said in a letter to the Ethics Commission last month that the omissions brought to his attention led to a full review of the travel expenses and a revamping of the university’s internal processes for tracking expenditures and travel costs within the president’s office.

Gee’s travel expenses in the last two years included two trips to China and two other international trips to Iceland, Turkey, France and the United Kingdom. Additionally, King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia spent $36,095 on two trips for Gee. Gee sits on the university’s international board of advisers.

Gee’s contract with the OSU Board of Trustees calls for first-class domestic flights, business class international flights and access to corporate jet travel through NetJets.

Ohio State pays $22,500 per month for an ownership share in NetJets and a fixed rental rate of $7,941 per month, plus $1,950 per flight hour. The university contracts for 150 flight hours per year, with up to 100 of those hours earmarked for Gee’s use. The contract allows for the use of Cessna Citation Excel jets, which carry between seven and 10 passengers.

At Ohio State Gee oversees an enterprise with a $5 billion budget, 65,000 students and 48,000 employees. Although the university has many funding sources, state taxpayers contributed more than $421 million to Ohio State during the 2011 fiscal year.

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