The Wright State University administrators who have been on paid leave for almost two years amid an ongoing federal investigation into possible violations of immigration law should be terminated, the vice chairman of the WSU board said today.
Doug Fecher told the Dayton Daily News that he and board chairman Michael Bridges agree that the administrators should be separated from the university.
“We feel very strongly,” Fecher said. “We need to take this and put it to bed.”
Fecher and Bridges stressed that they were only speaking on behalf of themselves and not necessarily the full board.
The board of trustees on April 7 will vote on a resolution that would, if approved, release the details of an audit performed by Plante Moran, Fecher said. That audit should shed more light on one of the more controversial episodes in the school’s 50-year history.
Former WSU provost Sundaram Narayanan and researcher Phani Kidambi have been on paid leave since May 2015 during the investigation. They have continued to receive annual raises, the I-Team found, though they are prohibited from working. Last year Narayanan was paid $288,997 and Kidambi was paid $77,537, according to payroll records.
The university fired Narayanan's senior advisor Ryan Fendley in 2015, but he is currently suing the school alleging wrongful termination. University chief general counsel Gwen Mattison was placed on paid leave then paid roughly $300,000 to retire.
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An I-Team investigation in January found the ongoing federal investigation has cost the university roughly $2.2 million – and counting – including $363,550 spent on the Plante Moran audit.
University officials have repeatedly refused to release the audit’s findings, claiming it is exempt from Ohio public records law because it was subcontracted through their legal counsel so is protected under attorney-client privilege.
The audit started in mid-2015 in the wake of the federal investigation to look at "ways to improve administrative practices."
Officials have never explained the scope of the audit. But following it, they made changes to their legal compliance practices, restructured organizations affiliated with the school and terminated a million-dollar deal with a controversial consultant, among other things.
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Fecher said today the board may also vote at some point to request that Wright State’s attorney make any referrals for further investigations and for the attorney general’s office to also look into the details of the audit.
The decision to release the audit comes just after Wright State president David Hopkins resigned Friday and less than four months before Cheryl Schrader becomes the university’s seventh president in July. Curtis McCray is serving as an interim president until then.
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“In other words…it’s accountability time. The board is moving forward to review appropriately,” Fecher said. “What comes next? I don’t know yet but we really need to end this so Cheryl can come in with a clean slate.”
Terminating the officials who have been on paid leave for almost two years is part of “being the best financial stewards we can be,” Bridges said.
Wright State officials have been dealing with an ongoing budget crisis as the university must eliminate $25 million from its fiscal year 2018 budget to regain its financial footing.
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Staying with the story
This newspaper is your only source for information about an ongoing federal investigation into activities that took place at Wright State University. The I-Team has revealed what the possible violations were, actions the university has taken to respond to the investigation and what the costs are to the public.