Ohio's auditor gets legal OK to audit university foundations

From The Columbus Dispatch State Auditor Dave Yost has received legal approval to perform financial audits of Ohio college and university foundations, which raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

A legal opinion from state Attorney General Mike DeWine, dated Wednesday, concluded that state law permits Yost to audit the foundations because, even though most of them are private, nonprofit corporations, they collect money on behalf of and distribute money to public colleges and universities

DeWine said in the opinion that the auditor has the right to audit the foundations because they are "established by the laws of this state for the exercise of a function of government, and are therefore, a public office."

Yost sought a legal opinion from DeWine after encountering objections from some state universities about whether their respective university foundations are subject to review by the auditor. Youngstown State, in particular, raised an objection and hired legal counsel to oppose the auditor.

"We decided it was best for all parties to seek clarity from the attorney general about the auditor’s ability to review the financial operations of university foundations," said Ben Marrison, Yost's communications director.

Yost said in a statement: “We are pleased, but not surprised, that the attorney general agrees that these funds — collected on behalf of universities to benefit universities — are public dollars and subject to the scrutiny of state auditors.”

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