Payment of $500,000 for law firm investigating Urban Meyer “being adjusted”

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer watches from the sideline against UNLV during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
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COLUMBUS – Payment for a New York law firm, which was slated to receive $500,000 for investigating what Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer knew and did about a 2015 domestic incident involving his now-former assistant coach, has been placed on hold, 10 Investigates has learned.

The state’s controlling board, which was supposed to approve the money request, deferred a vote on the measure Monday because the “the parties are going to be adjusting the budget,” according to a spokesman for the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

The issue will likely be taken up a future meeting of the state’s controlling board, the spokesman said.

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The attorney general’s office is responsible for defending or assigning special counsel to state agencies, in this case The Ohio State University.

The spokesman would not say how that budget is being adjusted – meaning it’s not clear if the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton is going to receive an increase or decrease in the amount of money it receives for investigating Urban Meyer.

A university spokesman declined comment on the payment adjustment.

The university hired prominent attorney Mary Jo White, the former Securities and Exchange Commission Secretary, to help lead the investigation into Urban Meyer. White has delved into other high-profile issues in the NFL like “Bountygate” and the suspension of Dallas Cowboys and former OSU star, Ezekiel Elliott.

Meanwhile, the university’s investigative group, led by White, completed its 14-day investigation on Sunday into what Urban Meyer knew and did about that 2015 domestic incident involving his former wide receivers coach Zach Smith.

Zach’s ex-wife Courtney called Powell Police in late October of 2015 to report that she had been the victim of domestic abuse. Powell Police investigated but did not charge Zach Smith because the Chief of Police Gary Vest told 10 Investigates that they did not think they could win the case in criminal court.

Courtney has said in interviews that she shared details of her alleged domestic abuse with Urban Meyer’s wife, Shelley. Zach Smith was fired by Ohio State on July 23 after more details of his relationship with Courtney became public. Zach Smith was named in a civil protection order on July 20; and in May, he was cited for criminal trespass. That matter is still pending in court.

Urban Meyer initially told reporters on July 24 that he didn’t know anything about the 2015 domestic incident. After Courtney went public with her story, Urban Meyer was placed on paid administrative leave. He released a statement on Aug. 3 saying that his words failed him and that he did know about the 2015 incident but followed the proper reporting protocols.

Urban Meyer is contractually obligated to report such issues.

Attorney Bill Wahoff reviewed Urban Meyer’s contract at the request of 10 Investigates.

“The contract itself, the addendum, made it very specific that anything that would fall within the university's sexual misconduct policy needed to be reported and also made reference to the supervisor responsibility. Because the contract already referred to the university rules, one could argue that it does refer to prior conduct and incorporates the sexual misconduct policy,” said Wahoff referring to an addendum that was added to Urban Meyer’s contract in March of this year.

The results of the university’s investigation into the matter, which ended Sunday, have not been made public.

The university said in a release that the investigative group “verbally shared” its findings with the board of trustees Monday in an informational meeting.

It is not clear how that information was communicated or if the entire board was present.

A special board meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.

The meeting will be held at Longaberger Alumni House, 2200 Olentangy River Road. In keeping with Ohio open meetings law, the meeting will be convened in public session before entering executive session for the entirety of the personnel matters discussion, the university said in a release.

“The investigative team will verbally share its findings to the board today in an informational briefing. The board will not deliberate or discuss any public business or make any decisions today based on the information presented during the session. Today's briefing is to ensure that board members are adequately prepared to discuss this matter at Wednesday's meeting,” the university’s release said.

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