A state Senator and frequent critic of the University of Wisconsin System says any effort to bailout the debts of the troubled UW-Oshkosh Foundation could damage efforts to rebuild trust between lawmakers and university officials.
The warning follows reports that the state Justice Department is negotiating a settlement with creditors as a result of the UW’s lawsuit against two former Oshkosh campus officials, who were accused of illegally funneling tax money to a private foundation. The state filed the lawsuit in January against Former Oshkosh chancellor Richard Wells and business officer Thomas Sonnleitner.
In a letter to System President Ray Cross, Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) warns against any such a deal using public funds to pay off the private foundation’s debts. “President Cross, you need to keep your commitment that the public won’t be forced to fund the inappropriate decisions of two campus administrators and the failed oversight of the System,” Nass wrote. “Further, any effort by the UW System to ram through a bailout in the late stages of the state budget process would certainly cast a new light on the public relations campaign that was launched by the UW System on this matter in mid-January.”
In a statement, Board of Regents Audit Committee Chair Michael Grebe said DOJ is working to determine if a settlement can be reached, but stressed that no agreement has been reached yet. “We are being extremely cautious down this path, and if an agreement had been reached, we would have shared this information with the general public. We will continue to be transparent and forthcoming if there is information to share,” Grebe said.