Friday, October 30, 2015

Trust Navigator: May we connect some dots?

Ever since the University of Akron whipped up an  $840,00 contract in June  for an inexperienced start-up company named  Trust Navigator, the question remained about how UA President Scott Scarborough and the Board of Trustees could have so hastily signed on with the Cleveland area company. To many, it just didn't make  academic or business  sense.

As we have recently learned,  the owner's other company, an investment firm,  is being investigated by  the Ohio Department of Commerce  for alleged  fraud and  insolvency.

Trust Navigator, on the other hand, was formed a few days before  the ink dried on its contract with UA. Its mission was to serve as "success coaches"   for  freshmen students to ease their  way through the classroom. A TN officer said  his new company had no experience in success coaching and would rely on UA for guidance.

UA officials said a second company , Inside Track, of San Francisco had entered a bid 0f  $1.3 million for the plan..  The Beacon Journal reported that both companies were interviewed by phone.  Oh?

Still, the question:  How did it all happen so fast for Thomas Roulston III, the owner of Trust Navigator whose family has a long history of financial investment work ?

One theory is that it was an inside job.    If you're one to connect dots, try this one;  Richard Pogue, an influential  and well-connected Clevelander and  former UA Board of Trustees chairman, sits on the board of Thomas Roulston III's sister's investment company,  WealthTrust Fairport, LLC,  where she - Heather Roulston Ettinger - is listed by Bloomberg Business  as a managing partner.

At the same time, Sandra Pianalto, former chairman and CEO of the Federal  Reserve Bank of Cleveland, is an advisory trustee of the UA board and a board member of WealthTrust.

That's a mighty one-two punch  for a guy like Roulston.  You might recall that Roulston  said at the time of the UA announcement that his new company had no experience in the success coach field.  Was he looking for a clubby way to get his investment company out of debt?

So may we conclude that it was a done deal?   That would explain everything, right?

P.S.  In  response to a media request  for UA's reaction to the Ohio Commerce Department probe, UA spokesperson Wayne Hill was authorized to merely say that the infant program was working well. That,  of course, was not what the question was about.


Anonymous said...

I'm struck by the fact that no matter how much I read about the University's doings in the Beacon Journal, it's always here at Grumpy Abe where I get the details that matter. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Based on eliminated positions of the Student Services Center, who were more than qualified to provide "coaching" to students, wouldn't it have been cheaper to keep them? Why outsource if it actually costs more? Does not look like the finances were truly the problem!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your statement about the Student Services Center, the actual salaries of the staff and supervisor of the Student Services Center was significantly lower. Even if you add in the cost of health insurance and fringe benefits it still would not come close to the $840,000.00