Frostburg president spent $1,240 from fund for political functions

October 31, 1990|By Patricia Meisol | Patricia Meisol,Sun Staff Correspondent

FROSTBURG — Because of incorrect information supplied to The Sun, an article in Wednesday's editions erroneously reported the final recipient of $300 spent by the Frostburg State University Foundation for tickets to a gubernatorial fund-raiser. The Allegany County Democratic Central Committee said yesterday that the money remained in the committee's accounts.

FROSTBURG -- In the past five years, the president of Frostburg State University has used a presidential discretionary fund to make at least $1,240 in political contributions, including $300 for a 1987 gubernatorial fund-raiser, university officials acknowledged yesterday.

The contributions, in the form of tickets to political events attended by university officials, came from a special account for the university's non-profit foundation. Under federal law, money from the tax-exempt charitable organization cannot be used for political purposes.


The university president, Herb F. Reinhard Jr., said in an interview yesterday that he had raised the money for the discretionary fund himself from local business leaders and directed how it would be spent, subject to a foundation executive's approval. He defended the practice of purchasing tickets to political functions, saying that university officials ought to be represented at community events.

But while Dr. Reinhard maintained that he had done nothing inappropriate, he also moved yesterday to return at least $400 worth of tickets he purchased with funds from the presidential account for an event next month sponsored by the Maryland women legislators' caucus.

Besides that $400, the fund had paid out about $840 to the governor's event and to other political fund-raisers since 1986, said Mark L. Atchison, vice president for institutional advancement at Frostburg. He said he hopes to make public a more complete accounting today, when the foundation's directors convene for an annual meeting.

Under growing criticism from state lawmakers and the campus newspaper, both of which have urged that the foundation fund's books be made public, the university released a list of groups yesterday that had benefited from the fund. Most of them are charities.

Also, Dr. Reinhard said he asked for, and received, permission from the foundation's directors yesterday to permit the University of Maryland central administration auditors to immediately inspect the foundation accounts and any others criticized in the news media. He said the University of Maryland System chancellor, Donald N. Langenberg, had agreed to the request.

The Maryland state prosecutor, Stephen Montanarelli, whose office investigates wrongdoing by public officials, said he has received "copies of some newspaper reports from that area and some telephone calls" about Frostburg.

"We're reviewing the matter," Mr. Montanarelli said. "We'll do what we normally do -- make an inquiry to see whether a crime has been committed."

Dr. Reinhard defended yesterday $400 in contributions in a charity associated with Delegate Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany. But he said he knew nothing of a $300 check from the Frostburg State Foundation that apparently found its way into Gov. William Donald Schaefer's campaign coffers.

The check, dated Nov. 10, 1987, was made out to the Allegany County Democratic Central Committee, campaign finance reports show. It paid for six Frostburg officials, including Dr. Reinhard, to attend a "Salute to the Governor" at the Cumberland Country Club, according to Mr. Atchison, who became the foundation's executive director last year.

"I have no idea what that is," Dr. Reinhard said when asked about the check late yesterday. "Absolutely no way" did he make contribution to the governor, he said.

The money to Delegate Taylor, the president said, went for tickets to a golf tournament whose proceeds were to be divided between the lawmaker and a local charity. Dr. Reinhard said Mr. Taylor had assured him that the foundation money had gone strictly to the charity.

Sen. John N. Bambacus, R-Allegany, returned a $100 contribution from the FSU Foundation in 1987 after discovering it in his accounts. Senator Bambacus, who is also a political science professor at the university, said he returned the money because it was a possible violation of Internal Revenue Service laws governing non-profit foundations.

Dr. Reinhard expressed amazement over the growing controversy, first disclosed in the Cumberland Times-News last Thursday. He said donors were aware that their contributions went to the presidential fund, commonly established on university campuses.

He said the fund totaled no more than $3,000 in recent years.

But he refused yesterday to provide documents that would show how much has been collected since he set up in the fund in 1986, who has donated to the fund or how it has been used.

The account is part of the Frostburg State University Foundation, a private, non-profit fund-raising arm of the university that took in about $1 million last year.

The University of Maryland audit comes on the heels of a #F stepped-up review of university records here by state auditors, on campus for a routine visit, and public criticism of the foundation fund from Senator Bambacus and from Sen. Julian L. Lapides, D-Baltimore, who chairs the Joint Committee on Budget and Audit.

A bill by Senator Lapides to make public university foundation accounts was killed in the General Assembly this year after heavy lobbying from university presidents.

He said he would convene a public hearing next month to examine the Frostburg foundation and others.

One foundation director, Cumberland dentist John Davis, said yesterday that neither he nor other members approved of buying tickets to political fund-raisers.

"It was bad judgment, for sure," he said. "I want to make sure the truth comes forward, and I will do everything in my power to be sure of that."

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