John W. McCance

Lawsuit claims ‘infighting, buffoonery’ caused WSU to lose debate

A former Wright State University consultant claims in a $1 million lawsuit that the Commission on Presidential Debates pulled the first 2016 debate from the university because of the school’s “incompetence.”

The lawsuit filed by John McCance in Greene County Common Pleas Court contradicts President David Hopkins announcement on July 19 that the university chose to withdraw from the Sept. 26 debate because of rising costs.

WSU officials were told on July 18 that the commission would announce the next day that the debate would be moved to Hofstra University in New York, McCance said in a Tuesday interview with this media outlet. The commission gave Wright State the option to withdraw, McCance said, and on July 19 officials announced the university would pull out of the event because of increasing security costs.

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The lawsuit claims the debate commission pulled the event from WSU because of the “incompetence of certain WSU staff, as well as the epic gross buffoonery and carnival type atmosphere on the main campus with all the infighting and lack of support and finger pointing.”

“I have never been exposed to such a dysfunctional culture,” McCance said. “Unfortunately it’s the people at the helm of the ship that continue to lead it into the rocks.”

School officials declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday. The university has asked for the lawsuit to be thrown out of court.

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Wright State officials had estimated it would cost more than $11 million to host the debate because of increased security needs. The college ultimately lost $1.7 million on the debate and spent more than $2.6 million upgrading campus internet infrastructure and repairing the Nutter Center, the proposed debate site.

The university inflated security costs as an excuse to withdraw, McCance said on Tuesday. He also accused school officials of poor planning and said that only two meetings were ever convened from September 2015 through July 2016 to discuss budget planning for the debate.

McCance, who has served as an adjunct professor at Wright State, is suing the university for $1 million in damages stemming from the debate fallout. The lawsuit accuses the university of a breach of contract, wrongful termination, that WSU officials created a hostile work environment and that negligence caused McCance emotional stress, specifically his need to seek medical attention for chest pains.

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McCance was hired in January 2016 as an “adviser to the executive vice president’s office” to help Wright State officials land a 2016 presidential debate. The university offered McCance a one-year contract for $108,000, according to the agreement.

On July 21, 2016, President Hopkins notified McCance that his position had been eliminated, nearly five months before the contract expired, according to a termination letter attached to the lawsuit. McCance claims that Hopkins had promised to find him a job through the end of his presidency this year, according to the lawsuit.

“I put that at face value and didn’t really look for other work,” McCance said. “Speaking candidly, I don’t think I would have had a problem finding another job had the debate happened.”

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