Presidential Costs


Hotels and McDonald's: How OU President Duane Nellis used his university credit card in his first year

Taylor Johnston / For The Post

Since Duane Nellis became the president of Ohio University in June 2017, he has spent approximately $24,000 using his university-issued credit card.

According to memo statements from JPMorgan Chase & Co. obtained by a public records request, Nellis has used his university-issued credit card to make various transactions. The monthly statements from June 2017 to June 2018 outline purchasing history and travel expense history.

“A Purchasing Card (PCard) is an Ohio University-issued credit card that delegates small-dollar purchasing power to individual University employees,” OU spokesman Dan Pittman said in an email.

Those purchasing cards can only be issued to university employees, Pittman said. They are to be used for business purposes and all transactions must comply with university policies and procedures.

President Nellis has spent a total of about $18,200 on travel expenses within this timespan as well as $5,830 on other purchases. There is a limit of $20,000 in transactions per each monthly cycle.

He spent the most during the month of November 2017 with over $3,600 in travel expenses and about $2,700 on other purchases. That month’s statement shows three charges for limousine services costing a total of $1,550. A bill for the Oceanaire Seafood Room came to about $610. Other charges included a $10 parking fee and $10.99 at a soup and sandwich restaurant.

The month with the least amount of transactions was January 2018. President Nellis solely spent $17.88 at Brenen’s Coffee Cafe.

Other months show charges from cafes, restaurants, Panera Bread, McDonald's, a frozen yogurt store ($17.72) and $84 for airport parking.

University policy allows for reimbursement of meals or entertainment with a business purpose. Meals must involve two or more people. The policy places no dollar limit on the price of meals, but it states that “costs should be reasonable and customary for the location.”

Employees can charge personal meals and incidental expenses under a certain daily rate. Incidentals may include laundry, dry-cleaning and tips. Employees are only allowed to purchase meals when an overnight stay is required.

The rate varies by location — in Washington, D.C., for example, employees may be charge $76 per day in personal meals and incidental expenses to their university cards. In Columbus, an employee can spend $61. The rates are based on federal regulations for travelling government employees.

Also, instead of using a purchasing card, a traveler can choose to be reimbursed the cost of personal meals that were paid out-of-pocket.

University policy forbids employees from purchasing alcohol on p-cards. They may be charged to an Ohio University Foundation discretionary account, however.

Employees can charge lodging expenses during business-related travel to their p-cards. President Nellis had a $626.82 charge at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in D.C as well as a $655.90 charge at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa in California.

“I think ($24,000) is a lot that could be put to better use.”-Kennedy Fellure

University employees can also be reimbursed by the university for certain purchases. Tips may be reimbursed if the tip is 20 percent or less than the cost of the goods or services. The tip must be a “a reasonable amount” in cases where the tip cannot be associated with a specific cost — for example, when the employee tips a bellhop.

The university may reimburse private aircraft expenses if the pilot has a copy of a current pilot certificate and proof of insurance on file.

Employees may also charge other expenses to the purchasing card or receive reimbursements if the employees provide a full explanation of the charges.

Gabby Bertoia, a freshman studying journalism, said university officials having university-issued credit cards is a good idea.

“As long as it’s monitored,” she said. “Depending on how much they use it for traveling expenses, it’s reasonable.”

Kennedy Fellure, a freshman studying exercise physiology, said university officials should use their own credit cards for traveling and other expenses.

“I think ($24,000) is a lot that could be put to better use,” she said. “They should use the university-issued credit cards towards the university.”

Clarification: The headline has been updated to reflect more specific reporting.

Development by: Taylor Johnston / For The Post

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