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.