Publication:Providence Journal; Date:Apr 21, 2012; Section:Rhode Island; Page Number:A1


URI seeking outside review

Consultant will look at university’s relations with outside organizations; lawyer to assist in Institute probe


    PROVIDENCE — University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley says URI will hire a consultant to conduct a “comprehensive review” of relationships the university has with outside organizations and a lawyer to help URI deal with the probe of the Institute for International Sport.

    The private, nonprofit Institute, based at URI, is under investigation by the state police, amid growing political and financial controversy.

    “To avoid any perception of conflict, we
URI getting outside help will choose a consultant with no affiliation to URI. He/she will be someone with experience with higher education and with the kinds of relationships that develop between universities and external parties,” Dooley said in a statement released Friday.

    At the same time, Dooley announced plans to hire “outside counsel to assist our current staff attorney with all the work associated with the IIS situation and to represent its interests related to the IIS investigation itself.”

    “I want to emphasize that we have not been informed of any legal action against URI or its employees, but this step is nevertheless necessary in order to protect the interests of the institution,” he said.

    The announcement comes after weeks of news stories about URI’s errors and apparent violations of policy in its dealings over 26 years with the Institute, its founder and executive director, Daniel E. Doyle, and other Institute staffers.

    URI advanced salaries and benefits to Institute employees, for which it struggled to get repaid. In at least one case, it provided a tuition waiver to an Institute employee who was ineligible. And while top URI financial staffers chased the Institute for repayment of money advanced to his institute, Doyle arranged for a travel agency to provide then-URI President Robert L. Carothers and his wife an expenses-paid trip to a literary festival in Ire-land.

    Dooley said he still wants the “independent examination of the university’s relationship and transactions with the Institute for International Sport,” which he announced in February and then put on hold at the urging of the state police. But that, he said, will come later.

    “As I have stated previously, we will not compromise the ongoing investigation by the state police. Our own important review will proceed once the work of law enforcement is complete,” he said Friday.

    URI’s financial relationship with the Institute — which the legislature’s auditor general has described as “questionable” — began during the mid-1980s during the administration of then-Gov. Edward D. DiPrete and then-URI President Edward “Ted” Eddy. Dooley succeeded Carothers as URI president three years ago.

    “It has been my experience over the past three years that occurrences such as those associated with the Institute for International Sport are the exception at URI,” Dooley said in his statement.

    “Nevertheless, we cannot tolerate violations of our policies or procedures,” he said.

    Dooley has said little, until now, about the controversy.

    Asked during a telephone interview on Friday what had come to light that he considered a violation, Dooley cited Auditor General Dennis Hoyle’s findings in a report made public in mid-February. “I think the auditor questioned the procedures and process that put employees of IIS on the URI payroll. I think that was a good point the auditor made, and those are the kinds of things we want to make sure aren’t happening.”

    Hoyle called URI’s financial relationship with Doyle “questionable” and said it should not be repeated because “it affords access to state benefit programs that would otherwise be unavailable to Institute employees. Further, it puts the university in an unintended business relationship with a private organization by advancing funds thereby creating a vested interest in their viability in order to collect amounts owed.”

    He also repeated his earlier assessment that the university made “a mistake” when it provided a tuition waiver to an Institute employee.

    But Dooley said he was not aware of anyone at URI being questioned by state police, or of any records being subpoenaed. He said it would be premature to say whether anyone would be disciplined or let go.

    And he would not comment on the propriety of Carothers’ trip to Ireland, under an arrangement in which the travel agency booking the trip for the Institute “comped” his expenses. “I don’t think that is germane to what we are discussing today,” Dooley said.

    When asked his reaction to the stories about the Institute and its relationship with URI, he said: “To be honest about this, I am disappointed that the university is in the situation that it is in. But I also don’t expect perfection anywhere.

    “So I think it’s just a situation that we have to do the best we can to live up to our principles and to do what is the right thing to do, and that is to continue to learn from it and to be … both responsible and responsive, and once we are past it to make sure that we put things in place so that these kinds of circumstances are less likely in the future than perhaps they have been in the past.”

    Toward that end, he said URI would hire a consultant to review and catalog all of the relationships the university has now with outside organizations to “ensure that such partnerships … are consistent with current URI and Office of Higher Education (OHE) policies ... [and] best practices in higher education.”

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