State News

State Legislature poised to audit UW schools’ foundations

State legislators are proposing an audit of UW System schools’ private foundations, after allegations that UW-Oshkosh officials misused funds by hiding money in the school’s non-profit foundation.

Image By: Morgan Winston

State legislators are proposing auditing University of Wisconsin System colleges’ relationships with their private foundations, in the wake of accusations that high-level administrators at UW-Oshkosh committed theft by misusing the school’s nonprofit foundation.

The Legislature’s Joint Audit Committee will hold a public hearing and an executive session on the scope of the proposed audits Thursday.

The UW System regents accused UW-Oshkosh's former chancellor, Richard Wells, and former vice chancellor of administrative services, Thomas Sonnleitner, of theft in January. The regents claimed the administrators hid money in the university’s private non-profit foundation and spent $600,000 on a foundation project with no strings attached.

In a letter to the chairpersons of the committee, State Auditor Joe Chrisman said if asked to carry out an audit, the Legislative Audit Bureau will “use [its] statutory authority to access all relevant records from UW System, including those related to the provision of any UW System resources to private foundations.”

Chrisman said UW System officials’ cooperation with the audit would be essential to its completion.

“Our statutory authority does not generally extend to the records of private entities,” Chrisman said. “Therefore, to complete our analyses, we may ask UW System officials to work with us to obtain the cooperation of private foundations and their staff.”

The public hearing regarding the proposed audit’s scope will be held on Thursday at 12 p.m. in the State Capitol.

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