FOX19 Investigates: Former UC president Greg Williams - 19 Action News|Cleveland, OH|News, Weather, Sports

FOX19 Investigates: Former UC president's extravagant lifestyle

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Dr. Greg Williams Dr. Greg Williams
Dr. Santa Ono Dr. Santa Ono
Fran Barrett Fran Barrett
CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

Even before reaching a $1.3 million severance deal, U.C.'s former president lived a lifestyle most people in the Tri-State could only dream of, according to documents uncovered by FOX19.

Dr. Greg Williams only lives 20 minutes away from CVG Airport but Bank of America credit card statements, which U.C. paid, show he often used Executive Transportation Services to drive him there and back. In his last month in office, for instance, he spent $443 of the university's money on chauffeured cars. Long term parking at CVG runs as low as $8 per day and parking near the terminal is $14 a day.

FOX19 obtained Williams' credit card statements for each month he was president of the University of Cincinnati, which showed a pattern of using car services throughout his tenure.

When he went to Manhattan in April 2010 he used a company called A-1 Hospitality Limousine at least three times and spent $338. That company is now out of business. So when FOX19 tried to reach someone there today to find out what type of vehicle Williams was driven around in, we got a message saying the company's phone number no longer works.

FOX19 showed Fran Barrett, the Cincinnati attorney who is currently the chairman of the U.C. Board of Trustees, the credit card records yesterday at his downtown office. He said it was the first time he had seen them, though auditors comb through records like these, he said.

"I would certainly hope that anybody would never abuse anything like that," Barrett said. "And again, I was not aware of any."

After Dr. Williams resigned, many union workers at U.C. were outraged that at a time when university leaders say they have to cut back on their healthcare benefits, the board signed two separate agreements with Williams worth about $1.3 million.

"The wage they're offering is not a livable wage," said Carolyn Schwier, president of the U.C. chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

She says the university has presented her union with what U.C. calls its "best and final offer" on a wage and benefit agreement.

"One of the most worrisome things is what they're proposing on health benefits," Schwier said. "So that in the year 2014, their offer basically is that we will get whatever they say we get. It almost ends collective bargaining for health benefits."

In response, board chairman Barrett said he knows the unions are being asked to sacrifice. But he doesn't apologize for the lifestyle U.C. affords its top leaders.

"I know times are tough," Barrett said. "I know how the union employees feel. And we're going to do everything we can to be as fair to them as possible. But on the other hand, there's no extravagance on our part in treating our top executives."

Copies of Dr. Williams' two severance agreements, obtained by FOX19, show that Williams will be paid $555,000 over the next two years for classes he'll never teach. Also included is a consulting agreement in which all Williams has to do is call the board and talk about the status of past fundraising and image-building projects he was involved with at U.C. For those consultations, which will last "up to" 40 hours a month, the university will pay Williams $25,000 a month until next September. Then his salary drops to nearly $17,000 a month. The consulting agreement ends in September of 2014.

Barrett says Williams' original contract called for even longer payments for "teaching." You might think of it as a prenuptial agreement inside a contract --- except the university wasn't protecting its assets. It was allowing Dr. Williams to choose what he wanted should there be a professional "divorce," a moment that arrived on a Tuesday afternoon in August.

With so many talented people out of work because of the Great Recession when Williams came on-board in November 2009, FOX19 asked Barrett if trustees couldn't have found a good leader for the university who was cheaper.

"I don't think so," said Barrett. "When we looked at the numbers and we looked at compensation, he's well within mid-range. And again, to attract somebody in the future to replace the president, you must treat that person not only fairly but consistent with market conditions."

Which brings us to the new president, Dr. Santa Ono, who used to be U.C.'s provost.

Barrett revealed to FOX19 that back in May, Dr. Williams was so worried about another university luring Dr. Ono away that he convinced the board to pay-off Ono's mortgage on a home in Atlanta. It cost U.C. about $172,000.

Ono wouldn't sit down with FOX19 to talk about it. But through a university spokesman he released this statement:

"My compensation is established by the UC Board of Trustees," Ono's statement said. "I am truly honored by the confidence they have placed in me and commit to doing the best job possible for the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Cincinnati."

FOX19 also sent a letter to Dr. Williams and his attorney asking for an interview. We never heard back.

We ended-up going to the luxury high-rise building in Walnut Hills where Williams is still being allowed to stay in the "Presidential Residence" until Jan. 31. We couldn't get inside the building because of a security gate. But pictures of a similar condo one floor below show panoramic views of the Ohio River and downtown Cincinnati, along with marble floors in the entryway and a kitchen full of high-priced cabinets. Renting a condo like this would cost you nearly $3,000 a month, according to Zillow.com, but Williams is staying in U.C.'s condo for free.

A university spokesman says the condo was a gift to U.C. in 2008 and was valued back then at $2.7 million.

U.C. has not yet finalized its contract with the new president, Dr. Ono.

But FOX19 will keep following the money for you when it's signed.

In the meantime, for Dr. Williams' consulting contract alone, over the next year he'll make as much in one month as the average person in Hamilton County makes in five months.

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