Cutler Hall

Cutler Hall on Ohio University’s Athens campus. File art.

While Ohio University has deflected all questions about whether Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Deborah Shaffer is an Ohio resident, many other state universities affirmed that their chief financial officers reside in the Buckeye State.

OU has declined on numerous occasions to answer whether Shaffer, who no longer owns residential property in the state, is a resident. University leaders say Shaffer’s residence isn’t relevant to the institution’s work, a point they reiterated when asked for comment for this report.

The Athens NEWS contacted 10 Inter-University Council public universities in Ohio asking about the residency of their finance executives. OU competes with many of those institutions for undergraduate students and uses them all as benchmarks for compensation of its executive employees.

Spokespeople from The Ohio State University, The University of Akron, The University of Toledo, Youngstown State University and Kent State University all confirmed that their institution’s respective CFOs live in Ohio.

“I reached out to Mark Polatajko, and he said he is proud to say he is a lifelong Ohioan,” Kent State spokesperson Emily Vincent said in an email.

Wright State University also said its finance executive, Greg Sample, is a state resident.

“He owns a single-family residence in the local market. There is not a residency requirement in Greg’s contract. He does not have a contract. He is an at-will employee serving at the pleasure of the president,” Wright State spokesperson Seth Bauguess said of the school’s CFO.

Miami University declined to comment, saying CFO David Creamer’s state of residence isn’t public information and that it would be “inappropriate” to share with the media, spokesperson Jamie Hunt said in an email. Property records show Creamer owns a home in Butler County, where the university is located.

Spokespeople from Bowling Green State University, Cleveland State University and The University of Cincinnati didn’t return several requests for comment.

Shaffer, who has worked in her current role at OU since 2016, is widely considered to be at the forefront of restructuring university finances in the face of significant fiscal troubles and who has played a central role alongside other top executives in authorizing university layoffs. She serves as chief financial officer and treasurer of both the Board of Trustees and the OU Foundation Board of Trustees.

OU Vice President for University Communications and Marketing Robin Oliver previously said she doesn’t know whether Shaffer still lives in the state, despite having regular contact with her, and that most faculty and staff are working from home amid the pandemic.

University officials also argued The NEWS was unethical in its efforts to determine Shaffer’s residency, citing the belief as reason to not answer questions on the topic. That claim was disputed by a media ethics expert and other faculty within OU’s elite journalism school.

OU President Duane Nellis argued without merit in a Reader’s Forum that The NEWS’ reporting on Shaffer was “unfounded rumor disguised as community journalism” and that the paper “concocted fiction” about her, despite being given opportunities to say where Shaffer lives.

The OU Board of Trustees, Nellis’ bosses, didn’t respond to numerous requests for comment on his letter.

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