Universities are people too? WSU gets a fine and a gag order on H1B visa scandal

Right hand sues left hand, in senseless exchange of public tax dollars in the name of Justice.

Sounds like a headline from The Onion, but unfortunately, it’s the latest volley in the folly that’s known as the Wright State University self-enrichment program for trustees and their friends- or H1B visa scandal.

If you’ve been hiding your head under a rock for the last 3 years, here’s the recap. Wright State University President David Hopkins who is universally loved, gets played by the local Military Industrial Complex and their cronies to extend the university umbrella to cover a bunch of projects/programs/initiatives to “save the base.” Next thing you know, WSU isn’t in the business of granting mediocre students degrees (WSU is open enrollment- meaning if you graduated from an Ohio High School- you are guaranteed admission), it’s a research institute and training facility for “the next generation war fighter” (cue patriotic music and wave a flag). All of this is because of the BRAC, Base Realignment And Closing act of Congress might cause “job losses at WPAFB“- which is “Ohio’s largest single location employer.” Note, anything in italics is meant to be said in your best hyperbole voice.

It doesn’t help that WSU has severe University of Dayton envy- where they run a very successful “Research institute” to gain government contracts and funding for research. Of course, a university with a pretty good engineering school that has hired top base scientists for years has the jump on Wright State. A friend of mine who taught in the Wright State engineering department used to call it “the best recruiting tool UD had.”

Hopkins puts a plan into place to build a similar structure at Wright State creating “affiliates” of the university- the Wright State Research Institute and Wright State Applied Research Corporation- and then goes to get contracts for them to “do research stuff” and “provide opportunities for Wright State students” and create “World class something or other” which was going to make Wright State a global player right behind MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech…. and Boise State, all giants in engineering and smart folk stuff.

Instead, WSU Trustee Nina Joshi who owns a company named UES, and Michael Bridges who owns a company named Peerless Technologies, and this other local company, Lexis Nexis, and a fall guy, Vijay Vallabhaneni, who owns WebYoga (which has the worst website I’ve seen in the last 5 years) all start hiring tech staffing at discount prices through these new, “affiliate” entities- and avoiding government regulations. Wright State adds a nice little markup on the tech folks- much like a modern day human trafficker. The program is called an H1B visa, and it is supposed to restrict the number of people who come into the USA to work from places like India and China- where they have more engineering students than we have people. Google, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle etc- fight over the allocation of these visas every year. WSU used its educational facility exemption to skirt the limits and bring in brainiacs by the boatload. The conditions for the academic exemption are that the “students” are supposed to be working for WSU and managed by WSU. This wasn’t the case. Instead, they were supposedly building a product called “SpiderXchange” for WebYoga and doing other stuff that wasn’t kosher.

When the curtain got pulled back from the scam, the university started to clean house. The President, the Provost, the Lawyer, the DealMaker, the Candlestick maker- all got ousted, while the board of Trustees got a reprimand. Nina Joshi resigned from the board – without shame. Bridges stayed on. Governor Kasich rewarded LexisNexis with a representative on the board to be privy to all these legal messes right in the middle. Sean Fitzpatrick works for LexisNexis- which is being investigated- yet, he, like Bridges, signed off on the “Non-Prosecution Agreement” tendered today by the US DOJ attorney, Benjamin Glassman. How this is even allowed to happen is bewildering, but, since WSU also agreed to a gag order, no one is talking.

Now here’s the crazy part: Wright State, a state owned entity, is to pay the US Treasury a million of yours and mine tax dollars as a “fine” to make sure “Wright State” isn’t naughty again in the H1B visa space. This is to stop anyone from being a dirty rotten slave trader of tech workers. Oh, and we may still prosecute some of those people in the future…. but we won’t say who.

Remind me how this happened? Was it the Wright State students who came up with this scam? Or was it the taxpayer of Ohio? Because, last I checked, while “corporations are people too” thanks to Citizens United, public entities are still managed by people who can and do commit crimes, and that’s what the US Attorney is supposed to do- find those people and prosecute and punish them.

That didn’t happen today. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, nothing happened, except tax dollars were once again wasted at Wright State, but that’s par for the course. That’s all the place is really good at lately. Today at the Board of Trustees committee meeting if you were listening carefully- you heard about how Wright State lost $1.3M when the building they helped build for ATIC– was sold out from under them- and they got to absorb the loss. Of course, the building was built by Wright State “benefactor” Bob Mills, who keeps showing up on almost every bad real-estate deal the university has been involved in. There was also discussion of creating the Douglas Fecher Boondoggle Memorial Respectability Center for the Preservation of His State Bailout… to which Trustee Langos said he wouldn’t vote for until the University had delivered a true “Space Plan” (not to be confused with Trump’s Space Force” where the utilization of physical spaces and classrooms is appraised and analyzed with our new lower enrollment. The meeting was held in the Fecher Boondoggle space- Fecher, who is the CEO of Wright Patt Credit Union (and a former EMT- as he shared today) sold his former HQ to the Wright State sham shell corp Double Bowler so he could move into the former CSC building which was owned by Bob Mills. The building has been a giant sucking sound on the WSU balance sheet- but now- it will become the new home of the Wright State Archives.

Apparently the Wright State Library isn’t a safe place for storing books, with every kind of problem down to insect infestations and no fire suppression system. So, $450,000 was raised to move the collection to this building and only this building. I’m pretty sure Mill’s will get the construction contract to do the retro-fit, and then, Wright State will have a building across the street from campus to hold a collection that’s supposedly worth about $20M, and used by approximately 4500 people a year (note, many of them are WSU students ASSIGNED to do homework utilizing the collection).

Two questions come to mind- where is the $150M that donors gave to the University in the Rise and Shine campaign that was touted as a great success, and why doesn’t the university sell off the collection and the cost of maintaining it to someone else- they need the money… to pay fines to the US DOJ.

thumbnail of U.S. Attorney Southern District of Ohio Non-Prosecution Agreement

Click to download complete PDF of the Wright State Non-prosecution agreement

I’ve got the entire “Non-prosecution Agreement” as a PDF for you to read, but, I thought I’d just pull out the pertinent bullshit that should make your head spin as a teaser to read the whole thing- it’s the shortest document I’ve seen in the Wright State drama, weighing in at a brief 5 pages plus a signature page. It’s even written in clear English, which I guess is what you get for a million dollars to pay for a Harvard Law Grad to slap you on the wrist.

This Agreement does not provide any protection against prosecution for any crimes except as set forth above and as described in the attached Agreed Statement of Facts, and applies only to WSU. This Agreement does not apply to any other entities (other than those identified above as being part of WSU) or individuals. WSU expressly understands that the protections provided to it by this Agreement shall not apply to any businesses or agencies that are merely affiliated with WSU. Additionally, this Agreement does. not provide any protection against criminal prosecution of any present or former trustee, officer, employee, agent, or consultant of WSU for any violations committed by them.

Note that last line- “Former trustee” making you wonder if the current trustees are buying immunity?

It is understood that WSU accepts and acknowledges responsibility for the acts as set forth in Exhibit A, which is incorporated herein by reference. WSU further agrees that it will not through its present or future Board of Trustees, attorneys, officers, or senior management employees, who are employees that hold a position of Vice President or higher, make any public statements contradicting any of the facts as set forth in Exhibit A. Any such contradictory public statement by WSU, its present or future Board of Trustees, attorneys, officers, or senior management employees shall constitute a breach of this Agreement, and WSU would be subject to prosecution by this Office pursuant to the terms of this Agreement. The decision whether any public statement by a member of WSU’s Board of Trustees, its attorneys, officers, or senior management employees contradicting a fact contained in Exhibit A will be imputed to WSU for the purpose of determining whether WSU has breached this Agreement shall be at the sole discretion of this Office. Upon this Office’s determination that such a contradictory statement has been made by WSU, this Office shall notify WSU and its counsel. WSU may avoid a breach of this Agreement by publicly repudiating such statement within forty-eight hours after notification by this Office. This paragraph is not intended to apply to any statement made by an individual in the course of any criminal, regulatory, or civil case initiated by the United States against such individual unless the individual is speaking on behalf of WSU.

This is the don’t talk about Fight Club clause. The district attorney has eyes on you, don’t talk, don’t mention this mess, and maybe, it will go away.

WSU accepts and acknowledges responsibility for the acts of its current and former employees who were involved in the conduct set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts in Exhibit A. WSU further agrees that the factual statements set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts are accurate. WSU condemns and does not condone criminal conduct, including the improper conduct set forth in the Agreed Statement of Facts, and has undertaken and ‘ completed substantial changes throughout WSU to prevent such conduct from occurring in the future, including, but not limited to the remediation measures set forth below.

Except, WSU can’t go directly to jail, it can’t pass go, it can’t collect $200 Mr. District Attorney, because WSU isn’t a criminal or a person. It’s a public entity. The criminals are still running around Dayton doing business, or have retired to South Carolina, and you haven’t done a damn thing about it. It’s like someone farted in a room, and everyone knows it smells, and even know who did it- but no one is willing to actually call them out- including our Harvard trained lawyer. Yet- since I haven’t done my job (yet?) others may… seriously, when you read this next part, all kinds of people still might be smart enough to go after people who actually committed crimes and benefited from it.

It is further understood that this Agreement does not bind any federal, state, or local prosecuting authority other than this Office. This Office will, however, bring the cooperation of WSU to the attention of other prosecuting and other investigative officers, including but not limited to Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services, National Security Agency, United States Secret Service and National Institutes of Health, as requested by WSU and to the extent any federal, state or local prosecuting authority submits a request for information to WSU as a result of this Agreement or the federal investigation.

Let’s play abbreviation bingo just because it’s fun: DOD, DAF, DOL, DHS, DHHS, NSA, USSS, NIH – did we miss any? I’m guessing the DOJ is acting on info uncovered by the FBI- but, I’m not a lawyer except when I play one in my own defense on TV.

The big problem is the lie the attorney tells in the last paragraph of Exhibit A:

Upon being notified by this Office of the federal investigation, WSU’s Board of Trustees immediately addressed the H-lB visa employment issues. WSU removed the faculty and employees responsible for the contracts and completed substantial remedial measures. This included restructuring key departments such as the General Counsel’s Office and the Department of Compliance in order to insure all existing and future H-lB employee applications comply with all federal laws and regulations.

If the trustees had truly addressed this- there would be 2 less trustees on the board, and at least some folks in an 8×8 cell. Instead, the taxpayers are paying a million dollar fine while the people who were implicated were paid to go away, or walked away with retirements and separation pay.

There is no justice in this action by the Justice department.

I hearby crown US DOJ attorney, Benjamin Glassman with Hue Jackson Job Security award. The HueyJ award is where you get paid a lot of money, to successfully do nothing, and even after getting fired, end up with a job again smelling like roses.

Just remember, from now on, universities are people too.

 

 

 

Wright State Trustees: unsafe at any speed

Usually, when a Board of Trustees misplaces over $130M, gets caught in a federal investigation of wrong doing over running an illegal trade in scientist with H1B visas (where multiple trustees or their companies were benefiting) and they still can’t explain after a $300K audit where the money went, they would get a pink slip. But, for some reason our lame duck governor John Kasich has no interest in fixing the mess he made picking this board.

We’ll start out with the number one problem, enrollment has dropped 10% this fall. Normally, when a company has a big drop in sales, the first thing you look into is why, and how to fix it. The why is pretty easy: Donald Trump shut down their pipeline of international students which has been keeping the university fat and happy (especially since they were working their indentured H1B servitude/modern day tech slavery operation on the side) and the second part comes from the bad press and inevitable looming strike. The new president and the inept board are still claiming a strike won’t happen, yet, the AAUP is dead set on it.

Let me ask you a simple question? Would you buy a ticket to the Broadway show Hamilton at full price, with the knowledge that there is a 50-50 chance that you will have to leave the show half-way through, and not know when you will be able to finish? Of course not, yet this is what they are asking of students.

The failure of the President and the Board to clear contract negotiations over the summer is grounds for termination. It’s inept. It’s risking everything. And what are we fighting over? Two things: Health care and tenure.

Let’s start with tenure. It isn’t going away, and this board isn’t in a position of strength to force this question at all. They should be wanting to grant tenure like the way they want to grant certificates, associates degrees and every other hare brained scheme they have to get students, because, once a faculty member has tenure, the odds of them leaving is a lot less. And leaving is something a lot of them are considering after the last 5 years of incompetence. Turnover is one of the clearest indicators of a shitty work environment and bad management. The flow of talent out of Wright State should be the number two concern after marketing. And maybe it should actually be number one, because without great teachers, what the hell are they selling out there? So, tenure is not something to be arguing about.

If you want a summary of what this board is up against, you don’t have any farther to go than a James Bond villain, Dr. No.  Actually, this Dr. No is a she, with an Irish accent, and you probably don’t want to play her in Jeopardy on Colonial American history.

This was at the Trustee’s meeting on Oct. 18, 2018 when she showed up along with Marvel villain, Dr. Doom, (sorry, I can’t resist- Dr. Travis Doom- head of the faculty senate and a well loved computer science professor), and told the board that they don’t have any super powers.

Of course, the fact that this board was meeting in one of their prime boondoggles, the former HQ of Wright Patt Credit Union, a building the board bought through an illegally crafted shell corporation, “Double Bowler” to benefit both board of Trustees President Doug Fecher, and also Wright State benefactor Bob Mills, who Fecher paid back by buying the old CSC building that was an anchor on Mills bottom line. That transaction alone should have put some folks in prison, but, this was the age of incompetence in Ohio- where basketball coaches got to keep their jobs because their star player liked them, and football coaches got to have horrible records and keep their jobs ( dang, Ty Lue got fired and then Hue Jackson, all this last weekend, maybe somethings going to change at Wright State too?).

This board has already shown what it thinks is important. D-1 Basketball, where no students go to games, and the university doubled the pay of the coach, despite being in a fiscal disaster, and STEM, certificates, and associates degrees… because, well, that’s really not our job, but, we’re too stupid to do our job, so look, squirrel!

What’s even better about meeting in the WPCU HQ- is that the board sits, quite literally, in the dark, hence the horrible video. It’s fitting. They are in the dark. The room was used for some kind of master planning exercise. One of those “groupthink” our way to mediocrity favored by Daytonians where it takes a herd to be heard. Around the room, on the managers offices, with their windows covered with post-its, are various themes for figuring out the Wright way out of the mess.

Wright State Trustees meeting in the darkHere are some of the “war room” names:

  • Alumni and Advancement
  • Community/Diversity/Globalization
  • Community Partnerships
  • Student Life
  • Imagination and Entrepreneurship

There are more- but, never is there a room with “Marketing.” Imagine that.

Now, since the last post, there have been two meetings of the mindless wonders called Trustees. First was the Oct. 18th meeting, where the faculty showed up in force. The outcome of that according to the Dayton Daily news- was that they sold two buildings for $2.3M.

One was the Kettering Center- a fiasco of a building downtown that WSU hasn’t been able to figure out what to do with for the last dozen years. It’s right across from Riverscape, and next to the Engineers center and ugly as sin. It’s also full of asbestos- making renovation and repurposing expensive. That building was sold for a million to KC Dayton Partners, LLC- which could be anyone. It’s not listed as an LLC in Ohio at the Secretary of States office.

The other building they sold, at a fire sale price to a real estate investment group out of Solon, a suburb of Cleveland, was part of the “Research Park” in Kettering that took perfectly good farmland and turned it into an oasis of tax abatement in Kettering. Reynolds and Reynolds abandoned downtown Dayton to move their campus there, Kodak/Scitex built a plant, and Community Blood Center and Tissue Services sank a ton of money out there too. Woolpert, a government contractor, helped create this mecca, yet, moved out of Dayton and directly across the street from this “oasis” so they could be in Beavercreek where there is no income tax. Smart. This was supposed to be the silicon valley of Dayton, with partners of the University of Dayton, Wright State and… well, Kettering, who is now buying back the land, because this oasis never really reached its potential. This was the STEM incubator, and was supposed to help put Wright State on the map. Instead, we’re on the map for asking to host a presidential debate then backing out. One other holding out by Research Park connected to Wright State is the STEM charter school- which has been another project that has benefited WSU donor Bob Mills. It’s currently adding an expansion- using his “Synergy Building Systems” company once again as the general contractor.

And, while the building has been on the tax rolls listed between $4M and $3M – they sold it for $1.3M. One has to wonder how this price came about, how potential bidders were notified, etc. Selling things at 70% off isn’t that hard. 54,612 sq feet of offices- 3 acres of land, built in 1985, sounds like a great deal for someone but not Wright State. Sounds like a much better deal than what “Double Bowler” paid for the building they were holding the meeting in which went for somewhere north of $4M for  63,849 square feet. But, then again, the board president wasn’t making money off this deal (that we know of). The big difference is that the Research Park building actually had tenants…

They heard from the Mission Vision twins again, but, I stepped out to hear and film the faculty press conference. I’ll have to review it and get back to you on their progress. It’s highly doubtful that this lipstick on the pig will do anything to bring students back or instill faith upon the heathen faculty. A much quicker way to change perception would be to clean sweep the board except for the student trustees and new Trustee Bruce Langos.  Yes, that’s me who you hear calling for Fecher and Bridges to resign. I think the audience was in too much of a state of shock to react- but a faculty speaker came up to me later and thanked me for it.

Fast forward to the finance committee meeting in the same empty building, still in the dark, last Friday. Fecher sat in, even though he’s not a finance committee member. This time, a much smaller audience, as the committee sits and listens to staff tell them that they are now working on their first 3 year plan. Nevermind that this board never asked for a three year plan before- or noticed the money flying out the door over five years. All is great and grand, as long as the faculty don’t strike and force yet another 10% to not enroll in the Winter- effectively blowing the whole thing out of the water.

Again- no mention of marketing, other than approving spending $53,508 with Ruffalo Noel Levitz LLC  to try to entice high school students to enroll, and wasting $76,235 with The Ohlmann Group of Dayton for “professional services to obtain traditional media space (print, broadcast, outdoor, direct mail), as well as digital media e.g. email, online social (Facebook, Twitter) and other digital media advertising services.” Remember- no marketing plan, yet- willing to spend money, hmmm. Readers of this blog will also recognize the Ohlmann Group as the agency of record for one of the other failure school boards- Dayton Public. And, wouldn’t you know it- they are also the agency of Board President Doug Fecher’s company, Wright Patt Credit Union. You should be seeing a pattern- or maybe you need a refresher?

There was a lot of discussion over the cost of health care, with Wright State being self-insured, but working through Anthem. The real question true “disrupters” would be asking is why doesn’t WSU turn the WPCU offices into a mini-public hospital for the school of medicine and compete directly with the duopoly of Kettering Health and Premier Health by offering cut rate, direct to consumer pricing care by the people who teach the rest of them how to deliver health care? By the time you take the cost of paying Anthem to be the middle man, and do all the negotiation of bullshit rates with the duopoly- you could be providing true community service and fixing health care in “Raider Country.” And, stop supplying cut rate interns to the people who are screwing you and all of us too.

But, we don’t have true disrupters or deep thinkers on the board. We have idiots. Because for the last half hour they were in a tizzy over online learning. They wanted more, higher quality, and kept talking like they could compete online- where they are a click away from Stanford, MIT, Harvard and others- and they can barely keep the doors open at Wright State.

As Tom Peters said in “In Search of Excellence” – “stick to the knitting” and Wright State’s knitting is basic degrees for white kids in a nine county or so area- where EVERYONE with a high school diploma gets in. If you’ve forgotten this, go back and read “The Fall of Wright State” and come back here.

You’ll never compete with online education with the overhead of that campus weighing you down. There are basic, fundamental strengths that Wright State does have, or could exploit- but that would require people with a bit more marketing brainpower than these fools seem to be able to access.  Hint- the accessible/disability services was one of your core strengths- get back to it. Second hint: The military ed part- you’re on the right track- but, your execution sucks. The rest, you’ll have to pay me, but, the idea of being an innovator in shaking up health care is a powerful one, especially since it’s the number one issue on voters minds in the upcoming midterms. Get busy on this- and forget about screwing your faculty- it won’t work. They are smarter than you- and they have the likes of Dr. No and Dr. Doom, and you’ve got Doug Feckless. I mean, Fecher.

And, stop meeting in the dark. It’s embarrassing.

For those of you who are students of consumer safety history- “Unsafe at any speed” was the book that pushed Ralph Nader to the forefront of automotive safety. What we have here is the Trustees that crashed the university known as Wright State from a high flying success into the ground. Until they’ve been removed- Wright State will continue to be at risk.

 

 

 

 

 

Let the Qbase lawsuits begin: Barnard vs. Qbase

The Greene County Courts online system is even worse than Montgomery County’s- in that it makes you think you can link directly to a case, but you can’t. Then it gets even worse because you can’t access the PDF of the actual filing.

So, I called and asked for a PDF- “What’s that?” the woman in the clerk’s office said. An Adobe Acrobat document, you know- like the lawyers have to file everywhere else, I say. “We don’t have that capability, there isn’t money in the budget, you can pick it up- copies are five cents, or we can fax it at $1 a page with a $2 transmission fee.”

Never mind, the fact that Greene County had $60,000 to invest in Qbase, but can’t buy a simple document scanner and Adobe Acrobat Pro for their courts.

The first lawsuit over the fall of Qbase has begun:

2009 CV 0955 BARNARD, JOANNE R VS. QBASE INC SAW PDF:Barnard vs Qbase PDF

via Public Access – Docket List.

Joanne Barnard wrote Willard Pardue a check for $75K for part ownership of his grand plan, along with quite a few other smart people (the list is in the filing). You’ve got Bob Mills and Sam Morgan in there as investors, and of course, the one and only “no bid needed” marketing whiz Evan Scott (he’s the one who gave Lori Turner the contract for “Get Midwest” while he was with the Dayton Development Coalition).

When Joanne Barnard was fired (position eliminated), a few days before she landed the huge contract for QBase to work with the United Way, she was entitled to have her shares purchased back. They refused.

There is much more to this story- and over time in the courts, we should find out more: Forced campaign contributions, mandatory attendance at political fundraisers and other improper business dealings, plus the bilking of taxpayers to fund this house of cards. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but when they finish their job, we’ll know exactly how bad an investment Qbase was for all the corporate welfare it got.

If you’ve got more info on this- feel free to contact me, so I can share it with the world.