From The Columbus Dispatch Ohio State University has agreed to pay up to $6,000 in legal fees in exchange for the dismissal of a lawsuit alleging it illegally withheld records on an energy-privatization deal.
Bruce Weide, a retired computer science professor, sued the university in the Ohio Supreme Court on April 4, claiming it failed to promptly release records associated with a $1.1 billion contract with a French energy company.
OSU failed to promptly release its request soliciting proposals for the energy management contract, declaring it a “trade secret,” and also declined to immediately make public the agreement spelling out the terms of the deal with Ohio State Energy Partners, the lawsuit alleged.
Weide said it constituted a scheme to keep the records from the public until after the university’s trustees approved the agreement involving Paris-based ENGIE and the Axium Infrastructure investment firm.
The Ohio Supreme Court referred the case to mediation. Fred Gittes, a Columbus lawyer who represents Weide, said he agreed to dismiss the lawsuit in a settlement requiring Ohio State to pay his client’s legal fees of up to $6,000.
Gittes said the matter became moot because Ohio State finally released the records once the deal was approved by trustees.
“They effectively achieved their goal of denying meaningful public access to the records until after the board voted,” Gittes said.
“Ohio State complied with public records law and acknowledged no liability in the resolution of this matter,” Ohio State spokesman Ben Johnson said. “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.”
Under the 50-year deal, Ohio State Energy Partners will pay Ohio State just over $1 billion up front, plus a three-stage payment of $150 million to support academics. In return, Ohio State will pay the private company fees of around $55 million per year to operate the university’s heating and cooling systems.