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Former Chancellor Says No Personal Gain in Foundation Deals

MADISON, Wis. — A former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh chancellor accused of illegally transferring millions of dollars in public money from the university to its foundation says he didn’t personally benefit.

The Board of Regents sued former Chancellor Richard Wells and a former vice chancellor earlier this year, alleging they illegally transferred $11.3 million to cover construction projects between 2010 and 2014. According to University of Wisconsin System policy, money should flow from foundations to campuses, not the other way around.

Attorneys for Wells filed court documents Thursday saying financial decisions he made as chancellor were done with the board’s knowledge and as part of his job duties. His acts “were not malicious, willful or done with the intent” to violate any law or policy, the response states, but “were done for the benefit of UW-Oshkosh.”

Wells’ response also states that the University of Wisconsin System did not have in place a clear and concise set of rules, best practices and guidelines for universities and affiliated foundations.

Wells retired in August 2014. He’s asking that the lawsuit be dismissed and that the university pay damages to him, including the cost of defending himself against the civil lawsuit that seeks unspecified damages.

The Legislature’s audit committee recently authorized a review of University of Wisconsin System schools’ relationships with their private foundations. State law bars the use of public money to benefit private organizations.

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