Sept. 28, 2007
By Joe Brennan
The Ohio University Board of Trustees today approved the reopening of an ethics hotline for reporting allegations of fraud, waste and abuse.
The system was suspended Aug. 24 after a legal review triggered by a newspaper's public records request revealed that hotline reports submitted online could not be shielded from public view under Ohio's Public Records Act.
Internal Auditor Kathryn Chambers Gilmore recommended today that the system be reopened as a telephone-only service. Callers will speak to a trained operator who works for EthicsPoint, a Portland, Ore., firm. The operator will relay the information to staff in the Office of Internal Audit.
"Having all interviews handled through the telephone will help guide those making reports to provide details that are important for audit purposes," Gilmore said. "We expect that this will also help to mitigate the risk that individuals filing reports will make extraneous personal comments about the subject of the report. It is our goal to provide this important tool for reporting fraud, waste and abuse of university assets, while working to protect the reputation of the subjects of the reports.
"EthicsPoint's operators are trained to ask the kinds of questions that give auditors information that is relevant to investigating fraud, waste and abuse. They can also help avoid creating reports that contain information of a personal nature which we do not need or cannot act on," she added.
Board Chairman C. Daniel DeLawder spoke in favor of the system and reminded trustees of the board's obligation to provide fiscal oversight. "Our external auditor wants us to have a system that allows people to report allegations of fraud, waste and abuse," he said.
President Roderick J. McDavis suspended the hotline at Gilmore's urging Aug. 24, one day after the university was obligated to turn over all records from the system, including substantiated and unsubstantiated claims, to The Post, Ohio University's student-run newspaper. The paper is editorially independent from the university.
The records contained the names of several individuals, including many who were found not to have committed violations of law or policy and others who identified potential problems.
"I feel very strongly that it is wrong to reveal the names of people who are the subject of unsubstantiated allegations," Gilmore said at that time. "It also concerns me that the identities of whistleblowers could become known. These people have done the right thing by reporting wrongdoing, and they should not have to worry about potential retaliation."
The system will resume operation in approximately one week, Gilmore said. The university expects to pay EthicsPoint about $4,000 annually for the service.
This story was updated at 10:56 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, 2007