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Two former UW-Oshkosh officials sentenced for misconduct

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Posted at 3:30 PM, Jan 15, 2020

WINNEBAGO COUNTY (NBC 26) -- Two former University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh officials have been sentenced in connection with a financial scandal involving building projects.

According to previous reports, former Chancellor Richard Wells and former Vice Chancellor Tom Sonnleitner had been each charged in Winnebago County with five counts of misconduct in office. UW System regents accused Wells and Sonnleitner of theft in a civil lawsuit last year.

The lawsuit alleged, according to past reports, that the pair concealed millions of dollars in improper financial transfers to the school's nonprofit foundation to help the organization execute five real estate development projects.

On Wednesday, a judge handed the two men a sentence that involves no time behind bars or probation. The two men will have to pay a fine of $70,000 over the course of two years. They were charged with a felony, meaning they lose their voting rights and their right to own a gun.

In court, it was stated that neither men gained financially, but were trying to enhance the University. Both of them apologized in court for their inappropriate actions and accepted responsibility.

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt released a statement Wednesday on the sentencing:

“Today marks the end of a long, difficult chapter for the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Everyone is moving forward.

I want to thank the many leaders, volunteers and supporters in this region, throughout the UW System and beyond who have embodied our mission and helped UWO’s resilient students, faculty, staff members and alumni set the stage for a stronger future.

The foundations of this three-campus university join us in engaging donors and partners with renewed purpose and hope. We will grow life-changing student scholarships, develop innovative academic programs, enhance students’ experiences and advance with confidence into the institution’s next 150 years.”

Wednesday in court, the judge also shared several examples of how universities across the state have now changed their policy's on how money can be transfered from foundations to universities and not the other way around.