By Ben Peters
Athens NEWS Associate Editor
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost dismissed an Ohio University administrator from a lawsuit that alleged she and her husband hoarded hundreds of bottles of hand sanitizer during the coronavirus pandemic and sold them online for 11 times the retail price.
Ellen Fultz, OU’s executive director of development, major giving, was dismissed from the suit in October, months after she filed a summary judgement request that featured testimony from her husband, Marcus Fultz, saying she had no involvement in Danielle-on-2nd, his business that allegedly sold hand sanitizer online. Marcus’ sole employee, Eloise “Elly” Walburn, also provided testimony saying Ellen didn’t take part in any of the business’ operations.
The lawsuit Yost filed in June alleged the couple illegally sold hand sanitizer on Amazon at significantly marked-up prices, breaking state consumer laws.
“There is no dispute: Mrs. Fultz is wholly uninvolved in the business of her husband,” the summary judgement request said. “Mrs. Fultz did not and does not speak or interact with her husband’s customers, Mrs. Fultz did not and does not draw a salary from the business, Mrs. Fultz did not and does not make decisions for the business, and Mrs. Fultz did not hold herself out as an owner or part owner of the business. Rather, Danielle’s on 2nd was and is solely a pursuit of Mr. Fultz.”
A spokesperson with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office did not respond to a request for comment as to why Ellen was dismissed from the suit.
Ellen, who was placed on paid administrative leave at OU after the suit was filed pending a university investigation, returned to work Nov. 2 after she was dropped from the suit and the university completed its internal review, spokesperson Carly Leatherwood confirmed. Her annual base salary is $139,474.
Marcus in August filed a motion to dismiss the suit, alleging the Attorney General’s office failed to state a claim. While Judge George P. McCarthy, who’s overseeing the case, hasn’t rendered a verdict on the request, the state filed a statement in opposition, arguing the case is grounded in applicable law.
“The State brought this action to hold Defendant accountable for sharply increasing prices on vitally necessary personal protective equipment (“PPE”) during a national health crisis amid a state of widespread panic and fear,” the court document said.
The lawsuit Yost filed, which included allegations against both Athens reisdents, alleged Marcus acquired bulk quantities of hand sanitizer and listed them for sale, jacking up the price by as much as 1,017.3 percent.
An amended complaint has not been filed in the Athens County court system.
Amazon records show Marcus’ business raked in more than $26,700 from the sale of 600 Purell hand sanitizer products in February and March, according to the original complaint. Compared to the average cost of the same products sold on Amazon in January, he reportedly raised prices by 241.8 percent to 1,017.3 percent, the lawsuit said.
The business reportedly charged $39.44 for 8-ounce bottles of Purell Advanced Hand Sanitizer Refreshing Gel, a product that cost $3.53 on Amazon prior to the pandemic.
The state asked the court to grant an order requiring him to reimburse affected customers. In addition, he could face a civil penalty up to $25,000 for each violation of state consumer laws.