WSU trustee reprimanded over son’s hiring

Ethics commission said Michael Bridges took improper steps to benefit son.

The Ohio Ethics Commission publicly reprimanded Michael Bridges, president of the Wright State University Board of Trustees, for his role in the hiring of his son at the university's research arm.

Ethics commission investigators found Bridges emailed his son David’s resume to two administrators and helped set up a meeting between David and Wright State Research Institute Director Dennis Andersh, who later recommended creating a new position for the trustee president’s son after interviewing him in January 2015.

Michael Bridges then voted to approve David’s hiring in the same May 2015 meeting where he was voted board chairman.

Bridges reported himself to the Ohio Ethics Commission after the I-Team asked him about the hiring in December 2015.

The ethics commission found that Bridges potentially broke state law when he emailed his son’s resume and helped schedule interview times. But it also said Bridges was cooperative with the investigation and “the investigation found no evidence that Bridges used the authority of his public position to secure the hire of his son” when he voted on his son’s hire.

The settlement agreement says Bridges accepts a “public reprimand from the commission,” and agrees “to not participate in any employment matters related to his son or any other family member employed by WSU.” The commission did not “refer the matter for prosecution,” but said charges could be brought if Bridges violates the agreement.

Bridges provided the I-Team with a copy of a Dec. 20 letter to his fellow trustees apologizing for “bringing this negative attention to the university I love and respect” and saying he looks forward to “all the great things we will accomplish together on the board of trustees.”

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“Following my self-report and my full cooperation, the Ethics Commission determined that my actions were indeed a legal conflict,” he wrote. “It’s now clear to me that I should have been more aware and should not have done these things.”

Bridges told an I-Team reporter in December 2015 he was unaware his son’s name was among the 78 people the voted to hire in May 2015. The vote was formal approval for a hire that took place in March.

An I-Team investigation found the $125,000 job David Bridges was hired for didn't exist prior to the hire, and wasn't publicly advertised. University officials said they needed a cyber-security expert and David Bridges' experience fit their needs.

Andersh and Michael Bridges also said Michael Bridges played no role whatsoever in David Bridges’ hiring. Records provided by WSU in response to a request for all records of David Bridges’ hiring did not include Michael Bridges’ emails to Andersh.

Andersh said David Bridges “surfaced through normal networking.”

Bridges said in an interview Tuesday that he was trying to help his son get a job in the area after he got out of the Air Force. “I help people all the time find jobs,” said Bridges, who owns the defense contracting firm Peerless Technologies.

Bridges said he knew Andersh before he worked at WSU and forgot he was among the people he sent his son’s resume to in late 2014. Ethics investigators note he also sent the resume to two private employers.

Andersh also said Tuesday that he forgot Bridges emailed him. He said the January interview with David Bridges was set up independently of Michael Bridges, and he had no interaction with the trustee about the son’s hiring.

“Michael had no impact or no input in the hiring of David, other than forwarding the resume initially,” Andersh said.

Records show Andersh emailed WSU President David Hopkins and then-provost Sundaram Narayanan asking if there should be a legal review before David Bridges was hired.

"I don't see any issues. Good luck," replied Narayanan, who was later demoted and remains on paid suspension pending an unrelated federal investigation into possible violations of immigration law.

ARCHIVE: $125K job for WSU trustee’s son wasn’t posted

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