University Of Wisconsin Ex-Chancellor Accused Of Mishandling School FundsBy Emily Marks
The former chancellor of University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, Richard Wells, is facing a lawsuit accusing him of mishandling school funds. Former Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Thomas Sonnleitner is also said to be part of the anomaly.
USA Today College reported that Wells and Sonnleitner are accused of making illegal financial guarantees between 2010 and 2014. Apparently, it was to secure backing for high-profile building projects on and around the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh campus.
The lawsuit filed in Dane County Circuit Court also noted that they spent more than $11 million in university funds for foundation projects. The lawsuit came about after an investigation into the financial relationship between the university and the Foundation was launched last June.
Wells and Sonnleitner violated state law by illegally transferring the school's funds to the Foundation to pay for the projects. Also, they wrote letters to lenders informing them that the university would support the Foundation's borrowing for the building projects.
As a non-profit organization, the UWO Foundation is in charge of raising, managing, investing and distributing funds to support the school's programs and initiatives. State law needs a one-way financial relationship between the entities that forbids the use of state funds to support a private entity.
According to Wisconsin State Journal, UW officials are appeasing concerns about the misuse of public funds raised by the lawsuit. Spokesperson Stephanie Marquis confirmed that the school has launched a review of financial transactions between universities and their respective foundations. She added that there were no financial irregularities reported.
The funds were used on foundation projects such as a campus welcome center, biodigesters at UW - Oshkosh, a dairy in Rosendale, a sports complex as well as renovations of a hotel in Downtown Oshkosh. Sonnleitner believed that the projects would have created "several significant benefits" for the institution.
In its official website, current University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh chancellor Andrew Leavitt announced the civil lawsuit against Wells and Sonnleitner. Leavitt also confirmed that Vice Chancellor for University Advancement and UW Oshkosh Foundation President Arthur Rathjen has been terminated.