Fired Wright State administrator sues university

A Wright State University administrator fired last year amid an ongoing federal immigration probe sued the university Friday claiming breach of contract for a consulting job he apparently had in addition to his $169,146 salary.

Ryan Fendley seeks $32,583 in damages, according to the suit filed Friday in Greene County Common Pleas Court, as well as attorney fees and interest.

This is his second lawsuit against the school. A lawsuit filed in December in the Court of Claims of Ohio alleges that he wasn’t fired for just cause and seeks $249,000 in back pay, including accrued sick and vacation leave.

The new suit says Fendley — who was fired as senior advisor to the provost in August after three months on paid leave — had a consulting contract with the university in addition to his regular job. That contract was terminated on Jan. 11, the suit says.

Fendley was paid $5,000 a month from May to December 2014 to bring the new director of the Wright State Applied Research Corporation up to speed — essentially training his replacement after he was promoted — according to a copy of the contract attached to the lawsuit.

“The first portion of the work … will focus on the smooth and detailed transition of all CEO responsibilities to the newly appointed CEO,” the contract says, noting it will require weekly meetings.

In 2015, he was paid $3,900 a month to meet with the new director at least monthly, provide “institutional knowledge,” facilitate access to his contacts and “serve as a sounding board” for the new director.

The lawsuit says the university stopped paying this consulting contract when Fendley was suspended in May 2015, along with then-provost Sundaram Narayanan, top university general counsel Gwen Mattison and researcher Phani Kidambi.

Fendley was the only one fired, in August. Mattison retired with a $300,000 separation payment. Narayanan and Kidambi were demoted from their administrative posts but remain on paid leave as tenured professors.

The university confirmed last year that the personnel actions were spurred by an investigation by the federal government into possible violations of federal law concerning temporary work visas.

The state lawsuit, filed in December, says the university didn’t have “just cause” to terminate Fendley, and university policy requires WSU to give nine months notice before terminating someone without just cause. So Fendley is seeking that pay, plus accrued sick and vacation leave. That suit is scheduled for mediation Feb. 17.

Neither university officials nor Fendley’s attorney responded to questions Monday.

The new case will go before Greene County Common Pleas Judge Stephen Wolaver.

Fendley’s personnel records, obtained using Ohio public records law, show he was hired by the university in 2003. He was hired as director of distance education programs with a salary of $49,500 and worked his way up to Wright State Research Institute CEO with a salary of $125,000 by 2011. When Narayanan was named provost in 2013, he tapped Fendley as a senior advisor.

Fendley’s December lawsuit claims says he helped created the Wright State Applied Research Corporation and grew the university’s research portfolio to more than $20 million a year.

“Fendley was a loyal, dedicated and extremely productive employee who has had a lasting and positive impact on WSU and the community,” it says.

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