Roy Hall — a wide receiver who played for the Buckeyes in the mid 2000s — runs the Driven Foundation, which donates coats and supplies to central Ohio students as well as offering motivational speakers for schools. A volunteer complained that Hall pocketed cash donations and bought himself expensive clothes, jewelry and watches.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's office recently announced a settlement with officials of the Driven Foundation, a Columbus charity headed by former NFL and Ohio State University football player Roy Hall, saying Hall and two others had been accused of misusing donations.

The state chastised foundation leaders for sticking their hands in a charitable "cookie jar" and listed a series of requirements and civil penalties agreed to by Hall, the outreach director and a board member.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our morning, afternoon and evening newsletters

But Yost's office won't comment on details of the case — including how much money was at issue — citing the court agreement and a 65-year-old Ohio law that says any investigation of a charitable trust "shall not be open to public inspection."

That leaves the public, and donors to the Driven Foundation, without a description of the scope of the violations investigated. Hall, a wide receiver who played for the Buckeyes from 2002 to 2007, started the foundation in 2009 with former Buckeye Antonio Smith to provide outreach and educational programming to central Ohio youth and families. 

"Those have always been protected documents, just as if the prosecutor is investigating something," Marty Sweterlitsch, a Columbus attorney with expertise in nonprofit law, said of state investigative files.

Unless investigators opt to provide more information, or include it in court filings, the public really can't request additional information, she and others said. Before giving to any charitable organization, donors should research it and get satisfactory answers to any questions, they said.

Dave O'Neil, a spokesman for Yost, said in an email that the Driven Foundation and the state agreed to the settlement filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in lieu of litigation. He said no financial tally was provided to the court either.

Meanwhile, Hall said in an emailed response that "there was not a specific dollar amount" at issue in the case. "The issue was the processes of recording transactions — which we are addressing moving forward by instituting more clear and consistent record-keeping processes."

He said "each dollar" donated to Driven over the past 10 years has been used to support the program intended by the donor, whether for food outreach, mentorships or back-to-school programs.

Yost's office did release the complaint that apparently triggered the investigation. An unnamed person identified as a Driven volunteer reported that Hall pocketed cash donations and bought himself expensive watches, designer shoes, custom suits and jewelry.

The agreement said Hall, community outreach director Josselyn Timko and board member Sonya Edwards all used a Driven Foundation credit card for expenditures unrelated to charitable purposes. Yost also said Hall received cash for autographs when it was unclear whether he was appearing privately or on behalf of Driven.

No dollar amounts are listed, but the court document said expenditures were often accounted for as compensation for officials. The charity's board of directors was in name only, Yost has said, and had held no meetings and taken no official action, including authorizing pay.

Hall said this week that the foundation is "in the process of formalizing a proper Board of Directors."

Restitution is not mentioned in the settlement, but Hall agreed to pay a civil fine of $5,000, Timko is to pay $1,500, Edwards will pay $500 and the foundation is to pay $2,500. Driven also agreed to implement new internal controls and pay Hall no more than $75,000 annually for the next four years.

According to a federal tax filing, Hall was paid $141,198 as president of Driven in 2017 — about one-third of the charity's $432,763 in reported revenue that year.

He has since formed a for-profit company, Stay Driven LLC, to serve as what Hall described as "an enterprise division" with separate revenue streams.

Zachary Weinsteiger of Charity Navigator, the nation's largest evaluator of nonprofit organizations, said it's not unusual for investigative details to remain murky.

"We believe that settlements paid as a result of a government action are concerning for donors," Weinsteiger said. "In terms of getting into the nitty-gritty of the issues at hand, you don't always wind up seeing that."

rprice@dispatch.com

@RitaPrice