The Ohio Inspector General’s office this week released the findings of an investigation that called into question $1.8 million of $2.3 million Wright State University paid to Ron Wine Consulting Group. This follows years of reporting by the Dayton Daily News I-Team of Ron Wine’s work for the university. Here is a timeline taken from Dayton Daily News coverage:
2005 — Wright State University President David Hopkins says a round of military base closings in 2005 moved more research to Wright-Patterson AFB. “We had this billion-dollar enterprise (Wright-Patterson AFB) sitting right next to us here and a very small percentage of those research dollars were staying in Ohio. So we said ‘let’s go for it.’ ”
2009 — Ron Wine’s consulting firm is hired as a part of an effort to attract more government funding and contracts to Wright State. His firm’s pay is $6,000 a month.
2013 — This Dayton Daily News begins requesting documents about Wine’s agreement with WSU. The university responds by providing highly redacted (blacked out) documents.
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July 24, 2015 — Wine emails Hopkins in reference to his pay, arguing that getting 5 percent of what he brings in to WSU is not a commission, “but rather a performance based workload parameter that we informally agreed to some time ago.”
October 2015 — Wright State releases to the Daily News university records showing payment arrangements with Wine that grew steadily, from $6,000 in 2009 to up to $84,000 a month.
November 2015 — Wine emails Hopkins to prep him for a meeting with Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, outlining talking points on how to secure state funding for a presidential debate scheduled to be held at WSU. “Playing the inside game, I also suggest you let him know the Friends of WSU would like to organize a major fundraiser for his campaign and House Leadership in Dayton in 2016.”
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Nov. 15, 2015 — The Daily News publishes a story outlining Wine’s relationship with Wright State, including the signing of a contract in May 2014 that would allow Wine’s firm to bill the university up to $1 million annually through mid-2019. Wright State’s total bill from Wine, since 2009, totaled $1,995,570.
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Nov. 22, 2015 — The Daily News publishes a story outlining how a state law intended to increase lobbying oversight has had little impact. “When I read the (Dayton Daily News) story, it appeared that this individual, Mr. Wine, was lobbying,” Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said. “But quite frankly we don’t want to make a judgment until we’ve done the investigation.”
January 2016 — Wright State suspends payments to Wine while authorities investigate whether the school’s contract with Wine violated state lobbying laws. In an interview with the Daily News, Wine said that the school didn’t owe him any money and that his 5 percent performance-based pay wasn’t part of any written contracts. Instead, he called it a “informal agreement” between himself and Hopkins and other WSU administrators.
Jan. 15, 2016 – State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood, approaches the Ohio Inspector General with concerns about Wine’s contract with Wright State.
Feb. 11, 2016 -- Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, said that he advised his House members to use caution when dealing with Wright State University. “I said use caution on everything because clearly they can’t handle themselves right now,” he told the Dayton Daily News.
Feb. 26, 2016 — Ohio Attorney General’s office announces that it found no evidence that Wine or Wright State broke any lobbying laws or engaged in pay-to-play politics. The AG’s office said it had to rely on public records and voluntary compliance by Wine in its investigation. State Rep. Mike Duffey, R-Worthington, calls the lack of oversight on Wine’s contract “a failing of the system that calls out for reform.”
Sept. 15, 2016 — Wine sues Wright State, alleges breach of contract. He is seeking $4.53 million that he contends is still owed under a contract he had with the university, plus interest, costs and attorney’s fees.
March 2017 – Hopkins resigns before his scheduled retirement.
April 2017 -- Wright State trustees publicly release an audit by the hired firm Plante Moran that notes documentation problems with the Ron Wine Consulting Group contracts, among other issues.
Dec. 12, 2017 – The Ohio Inspector General releases a report questioning $1.8 million of the $2.3 million it says WSU paid Wine. The report was forwarded to the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office and Ohio Auditor of State.