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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Ohio senator to propose rules for appointing college trustees

BY JAMES DREW AND STEVE EDER
BLADE STAFF WRITERS
Dann Dann
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COLUMBUS - Ohio's governor would be required to appoint parents of university students to state college boards and select trustees from both major political parties under a bill expected to be introduced today by a Democratic state senator.

State Sen. Marc Dann of suburban Youngstown is looking to curb political appointments to higher-education boards. He is proposing that all newly selected trustees be required to have a close affiliation with the institution they serve, either as a graduate, a former instructor, or a resident of the school's community.

Mr. Dann also wants to bar political insiders - former legislators, state employees, and lobbyists - from being appointed unless three years have passed since they left government work or stopped lobbying.

The senator, who is seeking his party's nomination for attorney general, said at a news conference yesterday that board appointments should be based on the "values and concerns of the people" rather than campaign contributions.

Mr. Dann cited a Dec. 30 article in The Blade that reported that trustees appointed to state-supported universities and colleges have contributed more than $500,000 to the campaign funds of Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican.

About 80 percent of current governor-appointed trustees and their spouses have contributed to political candidates, pouring nearly $3 million into the state's political money machine since 1990, contributing overwhelmingly to Republicans.

"To be appointed, the criteria is pretty basic: you have to be breathing and, as The Blade series makes apparent, you should probably make a sizeable campaign contribution to a Republican,'' Mr. Dann said.

Mr. Taft's spokesman, Mark Rickel, said before the governor selects trustees, he obtains feedback from university leaders, considers whether candidates are active alumni, and examines the demographic and geographic makeup of boards.

The governor sees no need to change the criteria in state law for appointments to state university and college boards of trustees, Mr. Rickel said.

Last month, Mr. Taft appointed three people to the Ohio State University board of trustees, including Limited Brands CEO Les Wexner and former BF Goodrich CEO John Ong. They have contributed more than $1.3 million to Ohio GOP candidates and causes.

State Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island) last week proposed banning the governor from appointing political contributors to college trustee positions. Mr. Dann called Mr. Redfern's proposal "too drastic."

Mr. Redfern, who also serves as the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said he supports Mr. Dann's proposal, adding that it ensures a relationship between trustees and the university they serve.

"I've met with people in the university community and they nod their heads 'yes' when I ask whether or not there is a question with how trustees are appointed," Mr. Redfern said. "We'll just keep working on it."

Contact James Drew at:

jdrew@theblade.com or

614-221-0496.



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