Wright State’s top attorney retires amid federal probe

Wright State University will pay roughly $300,000 in a separation agreement with its top staff attorney, who has been on paid leave since May during a federal immigration investigation.

Gwen Mattison worked for the university for 33 years before resigning Aug. 26 and beginning retirement Tuesday. The university announced her separation Wednesday in response to questions from this newspaper.

She is the second employee to part ways with Wright State amid an ongoing federal probe and internal investigation. A former advisor to the provost named Ryan Fendley was fired last month. The university’s provost and a researcher at Wright State Research Institute both were demoted to faculty jobs and remain on paid leave.

The university hopes to announce an expansion and reorganization of the its general counsel office in coming weeks, the university’s statement says, partially in response to problems regarding the H-1B visa program that is the focus of a federal probe.

Mattison’s separation payment was determined based on a year’s worth of salary and other accrued benefits, the university’s statement says. In return, she agreed to waive legal claims against the university, though the statement says none have been filed by her.

The agreement also requires her to pay back the money “if unforeseen legal circumstances occur to the detriment of the university.”

“We’re continuing to cooperate with the authorities and conduct our own internal review of the university’s H-1B visa program,” WSU President David Hopkins said in the statement. “More importantly, we’re taking actions to implement new policies and compliance efforts to make sure problems like this don’t happen again.”

Last month, the university announced that federal investigators were looking into the university’s use of H-1B visas, which allow employers to hire foreign workers to fill jobs that can’t be filled by the local domestic workforce.

As university general counsel, Mattison had for years filled out and signed the forms requesting H-1B visas, according to records reviewed by this newspaper.

When Mattison was placed on paid leave on May 4, her salary was $213,211, according to her personnel file. She responded to the suspension with a strongly worded letter accusing the Attorney General’s Office of a power grab and accusing the university of age discrimination.

The AG’s office took over legal work at the university after Mattison left and has budgeted $233,000 for the legal firm Dinsmore and Shohl to advise it during the investigation.

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