Ohio State has been paying a public relations firm off and on since February 2013, but the costs of those services are not being released because they’re considered confidential trade secrets.
The university authorized PR firm Edelman to “provide strategic counsel and work” to the Board of Trustees at the direction of general counsel in February 2013, according to the letter of agreement, which was among records provided to The Lantern on Friday to fill a Sept. 18 request. The hourly billing rates for Edelman were redacted, though.
More recently, the university extended its agreement with Edelman in January for the period of Feb. 1 through July 31. The standard hourly billing rates were redacted in those letters as well.
OSU trustee Alan VanderMolen serves as the vice chairman of DJE Holdings — Edelman’s parent company — and his role includes supervising some of DJE Holdings’ growth properties, as well as Edelman Canada and Latin America. VanderMolen was appointed as a charter trustee this year to serve a three-year term.
OSU spokesman Chris Davey said Friday that VanderMolen’s role with the two entities doesn’t present a conflict of interest because he is a charter trustee, which means he is not a voting member of the Board of Trustees.
“Charter trustees serve in an advisory role, they have no voting privileges on the Board, they are not considered in determining whether a quorum is present, and they are not eligible to be officers of the Board,” Davey said in an email. “Because of this limited service in an advisory capacity, charter trustees do not meet the definition of ‘public official’ under the Ohio Ethics Laws, so the firm’s work presents no conflict.”
VanderMolen’s office was not immediately able to provide comment Friday afternoon.
The January agreement addendum noted Edelman bills OSU at the end of each month based on how much time it spent on the services that month.
It also bills OSU for out-of-pocket expenses with a 10 percent service charge, “other than with respect to travel and entertainment expenses reimbursable to Edelman employees,” and a 6 percent administrative charge for internal expenses like “local phone, fax, copier, postage, email, Internet/extranet charges and database administration costs.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated Oct. 12, 2014, to include Chris Davey’s response about whether VanderMolen’s involvement with OSU and Edelman was a conflict of interest.