A new UW System report shows that since 2010, there have been $5.4 million in questionable transactions made between University of Wisconsin System schools and their private foundations.
A review of transactions started in January after UW-Oshkosh officials were accused of using missions of dollars in foundation funds to cover university project costs. System officials say one transaction took place at UW-La Crosse that "did not follow best practices."
UW-La Crosse started building Roger Harring Stadium in 2008. The university approached the foundation asking them to help raise money for the $16 million project. The foundation pledged $500,000 for the new stadium; however, they were not able to raise the full amount of money in time.
"In the end, the foundation came up about $180,000 short," said Greg Reichert, President of the UW-La Crosse Foundation. "That's where, in working with the university, let's finish paying this. The university paid the last $180,000 just to make up that gap in the fundraising that the foundation was not able to raise."
Reichert said the transaction is the result of poor timing not intentional wrongdoing.
"I think it was more a question of timing rather than anything else. I think that if we had structured the project that way initially and said 'You know, I don't think we can raise all that money. We might need some help at the end,' it might have been approved that way by the state and it might not have come up at all," Reichert said. "So, really it was a matter of timing rather than anything that was unethical or illegal."
Reichert said he has not seen a change in donations since the report was published. The foundation is currently focused on raising money for scholarships that have a direct impact on students.
The UW-La Crosse Foundation is reviewing policies and protocol as a result of the findings in the report. Moving ahead, the foundation may not be funding as many brick and mortar construction projects like Roger Harring Stadium.
Reichert took the position as the UW-La Crosse Foundation President in 2010 after this transaction had already taken place. He said the foundation is cooperating as part of the review. He notes that the foundation exists to support the university, its faculty, and its students. The foundation plans to continue supporting the university moving forward.