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Ohio State to pay professor emeritus after energy privatization lawsuit

Ohio State has agreed to pay $6,000 in settlement after a professor emeritus sued the university for withholding records on the $1.1 billion energy privatization deal introduced in the spring.

Bruce Weide, professor emeritus of the Department of Computer and Science Engineering, filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court in an attempt to force Ohio State to disclose details of the $1.1 billion energy privatization deal with ENGIE-Axium, a global energy supply company headquartered in France.

According to the Columbus Dispatch, the payment of $6,000 by the university will dismiss the lawsuit, as well as pay Weide’s legal fees.

The Lantern reached out to Weide and his lawyer, Fred Gittes, but did not receive a comment.  

The deal allows for a third-party energy firm to give $1.1 billion to OSU upfront, with OSU making $45 million payments to ENGIE every year at a 1.5 percent inflation rate for the next 50 years.

“Ohio State complied with public records law and acknowledged no liability in the resolution of this matter,” an Ohio State spokesman said in an email. “The process of arriving at this historic partnership — which will benefit the environment, our students, our faculty, our community, and the university for decades to come — lasted for years and was highly collaborative.”

In April, Weide told The Lantern that the energy privatization loan does not seem to be for capital expenditures, which is what state law requires, but is for operating expenses.

“I think the state auditor should look into this. This seems like a surprisingly transparent attempt to circumvent limitations on how much and for what purposes OSU can borrow money,” Weide said.

Weide previously wrote a letter to the editor of The Lantern speaking out against privatization in 2015.

He expressed frustration with the university for not providing information on CampusParc earnings from 2015. After making a public records request, Weide detailed “Six weeks later, I finally got a reply: ‘The information that you requested is considered (a) trade secret of QIC/CampusParc, and thus exempt from disclosure under the Ohio Public Records Act.’”

He argued that the lack of information provided allows for the university to remain mum on whether or not the CampusParc deal has been successful.

“In other words, we the public will never know — indeed, according to the administration we have no right to know — whether parking privatization was a good financial deal for OSU. We face 47 more years of not knowing.

“As OSU prepares to privatize operation of more OSU physical facilities, please keep this experience in mind,” Weide wrote. “Not only will you not see from the administration a substantive analysis of the actual financial implications of privatization before it happens, you will never see an honest accounting of the actual financial outcome that was realized (unless, of course, it is truly positive).”

 

Rachel Bules contributed to this article.

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