UA buys property from trustee's son

“The Ohio controlling board voted Tuesday to allow the purchase of several homes in the footprint of the University of Akron’s stadium plans. Among the approved purchases was a home for which UA paid $110,000. The house was owned by the son of a board of trustees member.”

The Ohio controlling board voted Tuesday to allow the purchase of several homes in the footprint of the University of Akron’s stadium plans. Among the approved purchases was a home for which UA paid $110,000. The house was owned by the son of a board of trustees member.

Board member Jack Morrison Jr.’s son’s company, Braymor Development LLC, bought the property for $77,000 in 2006. The board member’s son, also named Jack W. Morrison Jr., said he had no idea it was in the footprint of the stadium when he purchased the house.

I own 20 properties down around Akron and Braymor. That’s my company, Morrison said. I’ve been fixing up a lot of houses that have been in utter disrepair, and getting those properties cleaned up and renting them out to students.

It just so happens that one of the properties I own, the university approached me stating they would like to buy the property.

Yet, Morrison’s philanthropic hopes for his company took a back seat when UA purchased his house for 40 percent higher than what he paid a year ago.

Whenever you are dealing with a situation when there are governance issues, where you have trustees or officers of the university or family members where they stand to gain financially you’ve got to be crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s, said Ohio Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-71) who is on the controlling board.

In the university’s fairness, they did come forward and identify that situation and identified a number of improvements and an appraiser came forward and talked about why the property was appraised higher.

The residence on 334 Spicer was independently appraised by an outside company. The appraisers, John W. Emig and Howard Myers, both appraised the property and valued it at $110,000.

Real estate agent Marty Botnick of Howard Hanna said Emig and Myers have always been straight-shooters in the real estate business.

However, Botnick said, I just have no idea where he (Emig and Myers) took his information, because I cannot come up with a price like that.

Anything over $100,000 is rare in that area, so I just don’t know where that price came from, he said.

I certainly hope that this was all legitimate and above-the-board and just an error or oversight in terms of having the vision to purchase the property when they should have, Hottinger said. This is one of those questionable areas that has to pass the smell test, and this is certainly borderline.

I think it is a tough sell to convince many people in the community that there wasn’t an oversight and probably the oversight is they should have purchased it last year.

Vice president and general counsel to the university, Ted Mallo said the purchase was just that, an oversight.

The request we made was really for purchasing all of the property between four streets, he said. I’m not sure that we even had definitive information at that time with regards to who all of the property owners were in that area.

He said he did not know one of the homes was owned by the son of a board of trustees member when UA was attempting to purchase it. He also said the university has been trying to acquire property in that area for approximately 15 years.

Mallo explained that prior to this purchase, the university had an employee who retired last year and was in charge of real estate acquisition. She was spearheading the campaign to buy in the Buchtel Field area, the stadium footprint area, the Greek Village area and all other areas near UA, according to Mallo.

Since the employee retired last year, UA has had no one overseeing the acquisition or real estate until they hired an outside real estate company this summer.

Mallo also said he was not concerned with the situation regarding the board member’s family member.

Ohio Ethics Commission chief investigative attorney Nick Paul said UA has contacted them with questions on other matters, but did not before buying the house. In this case Mallo said there was no reason to call.

I normally don’t contact them on matters that don’t raise what I consider to be an ethics issue, he said.

Hottinger said he hopes this is not a matter of ethics as well.

When that property was available in September 2006, with a little bit of foresight, direction and vision, they should have been the ones who purchased the property, he said. It’s my hope that the trustee’s son wasn’t aware that this was a location the university was looking at.

These are privately raised dollars, these aren’t tax-payers’ dollars, so it’s the board of trustees who are going to have to answer to the students and answer to the alumni and answer to their donors to justify their purchase.

Morrison said this all started because he is just trying to help his business grow.

It’s something that I love and people say if you get to do what you love for a living that’s great, he said. I feel like I’m cleaning up an area that has basically been neglected for so long.

Morrison owns almost 20 properties near UA. Most are located on Power, Rankin and Kling streets.

He also said that he did not know the university was going to want his house. He had already renovated it and rented it out to students when he was notified the university was interested.

I really had no choice but to sell the house, he said. Eminent domain, that’s the fifth amendment, if they’re going to take it, they’re going to take it.

” #1.1361587:2726436031.jpg:20071101_house.jpg:The residence at 334 Spicer Street now sits empty, waiting for UA to tear it down to make room for InfoCision Stadium, which UA plans to begin constructing after the new year. :Melissa Dunfee”