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YOUNGSTOWN YSU backs away from Enron-linked accountant



Published: Sat, February 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



YSU planned to hire Andersen, but decided on a different firm after the Enron revelations.

By RON COLE

VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Add Youngstown State University to the list of institutions running away from the controversial accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

YSU has backed off plans to hire Andersen Consulting to conduct a salary equity study for university employees.

"The credibility of Andersen has been called into question, and credibility is important in a study like this," said Dr. G.L. Mears, YSU executive vice president.

Federal officials are investigating the role Arthur Andersen played in the collapse of Enron Corp. Andersen was Enron's auditing firm and has acknowledged destroying Enron-related documents.

Last fall, YSU received proposals from several consulting firms, including Andersen, to review the pay and job assignments of the university's professional and administrative staff members.

Late last year, after a series of campus interviews, a five-member committee selected Andersen and was on the verge of offering a contract, Mears said.

"Just about the time we made the recommendation, some of the details of the Enron-Andersen relationship started surfacing, how they had worked together," he said. "So, we stepped back about a week to reassess."

Reason for concern: Mears said he asked Andersen officials about the company's relationship with Enron. Materials provided by Andersen showed Andersen had a contract to keep Enron's books and another contract to audit the books, Mears said.

"That's the most blatant of all conflicts of interest, and I said, 'That does it,'" he said. "A company that can't keep itself out of that kind of entanglement, I don't think the university wants to work with them."

The university instead will hire Buck Consultants, with headquarters in New York and with offices in Cleveland. Buck will receive an $86,000 base fee, Mears said.




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