State investigation finds no violations at Wilberforce

A yearlong investigation by the Ohio Attorney General into an allegation that leaders at Wilberforce University violated their fiduciary duties found no evidence to support the claims.

The investigation “did not reveal any violations that warrant our office filing an action,” Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a letter to the university’s attorney. “No clear and convincing evidence was provided that the board failed to act in good faith or that the board acted in a manner opposed to the best interests of the university.”

“We were heartened to hear the news today from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which has given encouragement to the continuing work of Wilberforce University’s Board of Trustees and senior leadership team,” university President Patricia L. Hardaway in a statement.

DeWine’s office began an investigation after a complaint was filed last September by a group of faculty, students and alumni of the university that called themselves the Concerned Citizens of Greene County. It claimed the university over-compensated the former president, who resided in New York during his tenure, failed to raise sufficient funds, did not do national searches for executives, and raised many other issues.

The concerns in the complaint were echoed last week by students, who protested and threatened to withdraw from Wilberforce, the nation’s oldest private historically black university. They said they fear the university will close if changes are not made. Of the university’s 510 students, 337 requested withdraw slips at the protest last week. The students were planning to protest again this week at the Board of Trustees meeting, but that meeting was postponed, said organizer Brandon Harvey, a senior.

DeWine’s letter addresses each complaint by the group, and among the points states that the university’s Board of Trustees did value fundraising, had “reasonable justification” for hiring and paying former president Floyd Flake within the market range and that the university was never in danger of losing its accreditation.

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