Investigator looking into complaints about Central State president

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has appointed an outside investigator to look into allegations of harassment and discrimination brought by several women against Central State University President Jack Thomas, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News.

The AG’s office on Sept. 8 appointed Taft, Stettinius and Hollister with a $20,000 budget at the request of the university board of trustees after trustees received allegations on Aug. 22, the records show.

“At the direction of our trustees, the university asked the Ohio Attorney General to appoint an outside investigator,” wrote Laura Wilson, university general counsel and secretary to the board of trustees, in a statement to the Dayton Daily News.

While declining to comment on the allegations or investigation, Wilson provided a statement from CSU Board of Trustees Chair Mark Hatcher praising Thomas’ work to increase enrollment — largely by adding thousands of online students — improving fundraising, and “raising the profile of the university both in Ohio and nationally.”

“The Board of Trustees has full confidence in President Jack Thomas and his vision for the university,” Hatcher said. “His goals are ambitious, and we have been satisfied with the speed and quality of his progress toward those goals. In fact, in many cases he has not only met his goals but exceeded them.”

The Aug. 22 complaint from five current and former female employees alleges discrimination; wrongful termination or demotion; harassment and intimidation; pay inequities; and other things.

“It is aimed at women, primarily African-American women,” the complaint says. “It has resulted in adverse, career limiting, and damaging personnel actions against women such as pay inequities, wrongful demotions, and wrongful terminations. Women in high-level and leadership positions have either resigned, been terminated, and/or demoted since Dr. Thomas’ tenure started in July of 2020.”

The complaint doesn’t include specific allegations but says each is willing to provide testimony. It requests a third-party investigation, for Thomas to be placed on administrative leave and for his contract to be suspended or canceled.

The complaint is signed by Isabelle Cayo-Sanders, Lena Fields-Arnold, Felicia Harris-Nagel, Wendy Hayes and Ieesha Ramsey — all current or former CSU employees.

David Duwel, an attorney representing the five women, said his clients are cooperating with the outside investigators and have no comment while the investigation is underway.

Thomas has continued serving in a very public role since these complaints were made. Earlier this month, he gave a speech and cut the ribbon opening a new Honors Residence Hall.

Thomas was hired as university president in 2020. His contract commenced in July 2020 and is up for renewal on July 1, 2023.

The contract includes pay raises each year to a current base pay of $300,000, plus a housing allowance of $54,000 and an automobile allowance of $12,000.

In response to a request for Thomas’ annual performance reviews, university officials said there are no such records.

“The review process for Central State University’s presidents has customarily been conducted verbally by the Board of Trustees,” the university said.

Thomas does provide trustees an annual report outlining his accomplishments and goals. The most recent report says Thomas accomplished fundraising goals by raising $4.7 million in external fundraising; obtained new corporate and philanthropic partners; increased enrollment by thousands of students, particularly online; improved customer service; implemented a campus master plan; and increased external engagement.

“Central State University is well-positioned to achieve academic excellence and to provide a quality, and well-rounded education to students in Ohio and beyond,” Thomas’ report for the 2021-2022 academic year says.