Ex-URI president: Sports nonprofit an aggravation
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The former president of the University of Rhode Island said Friday that the school should have been "tougher" with a nonprofit sports institute that has been under investigation by state police since an audit found it could not account for how it spent most of a $575,000 legislative grant.
Robert L. Carothers told The Associated Press that URI should have taken a stronger stance with the Institute for International Sport over hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts the nonprofit ran up with the university. The institute has its offices on URI's campus and was allowed to use the school's payroll system to pay its executive director and founder Daniel Doyle Jr. Institute staff and Doyle were not university employees.
"I think we probably should have been tougher with them from the beginning on the reimbursement process," said Carothers, who led the university from 1991 to 2009.
The institute was established in 1986 and is best known for the World Scholar-Athlete Games, which attracted student athletes and artists from around the globe.
State police launched an investigation after a state audit found the institute could not account for how it spent most of the $575,000 grant awarded in 2007 to construct a building on the URI campus. The building is empty and has no heat, electricity or plumbing. The state gave the institute more than $7.3 million between 1988 and 2011, according to the state auditor general's office.
Last month, the institute repaid URI for nearly $381,000 it owed the school for unreimbursed payroll costs and other services.
But documents released by URI under a public records request show that the institute regularly ran up large debts to the university and that school financial staff pressed the nonprofit for reimbursement.
Carothers said the school was trying to balance chasing the nonprofit to pay its bills with the showcase the institute provided URI by drawing thousands of students and luminaries, including former President Bill Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel to the campus.
"It was a question of weighing the benefit not only to the university but to mankind against the aggravation that came from working with them," Carothers said. "At some point, we were ready to pull the plug over not paying the bills and then they would pay."
He added given the institute's problems with cash flow and its reliance on grant money and donations, cutting off credit to the nonprofit might have put an end to the organization and its good works.
"It's hard to know," Carothers said. He also said the institute always paid URI, "but we went through a lot of aggravation to get it."
An institute spokeswoman said Doyle, who lives in West Hartford, Conn., had no comment. His lawyer declined to comment. A message was left for Doyle at his home.
Carothers at times was frustrated with the institute. In a March 4, 2008, email, he wrote: "Let them know that I'm getting angry about this attempt at bullying. I won't stand for it."
The email was first reported by The Providence Journal.
Carothers said his comments were directed at the institute's board, which he says was threatening to relocate the nonprofit's games out of state. He said talk about relocating the games started after the university balked at providing services to the institute while it still owed the school money.
"After a while, I got sick of it," Carothers said.
Last year, the institute held its World Scholar-Athlete Games and a new event called the World Youth Peace Summit at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Those events encountered financial problems. Philanthropist and former
Carothers said the recent revelations about the institute have been painful.
"I feel disappointed," he said. "The institute had such noble goals and was carrying out those goals but behind those wonderful achievements, there was this house of cards financially."