CWU concludes Manweller engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior

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Matt Manweller/courtesy photo Matt Manweller

Central Washington University’s investigation into Washington state Rep. Matt Manweller concluded that the lawmaker engaged “in a pattern of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior,” with current and former students, according to a final report released Wednesday.

The 93-page report focuses on interviews with 15 current or former female students at CWU, including one who was a minor at the time of the alleged incident, which allege misconduct from Manweller ranging from communications with sexual overtones to offering educational benefit in exchange for sex.

The university fired Manweller Aug. 14 from his position as a tenured political science professor. Manweller is suing the university for wrongful termination and is seeking over $2 million in damages.

Among the many allegations in the university’s report, some of the most notable are as follows:

One accusation came from a Running Start student who took classes at CWU and had a course with Manweller in 2004, when she was 17 years old. The student said that Manweller had commented on the outfit worn by her friend, also a high-school student, saying it reminded him of the fictional character Daisy Duke and that he had a big crush on that character.

Later, the student said that she went to Manweller’s office to ask his opinion on what courses to enroll in. The student said that Manweller asked her what she was doing that weekend, and that he would be alone while his wife would be out of town. The student said that she planned to go to a movie with a friend, and Manweller said that he would “chaperone” the student if her friend couldn’t attend.

In another instance, a 19-year-old single mom, who was a student of Manweller’s in 2009, alleged that Manweller offered her better grades in exchange for sex. The student was experiencing poor class attendance resulting from her child’s hospitalization, and that Manweller propositioned her when she met with him to discuss her grades.

Manweller closed the front door of his office, according to the university’s report, put his hand on the student’s knee, and said “There’s always a way for you to get an A in this class.” The student walked out of the room and immediately withdrew from the class.

Manweller said on Wednesday in a Tweet that he regularly told students who were failing that they could still get an A.

“99 percent never took it as a quid pro quo,” Manweller tweeted. “Geeze.”

This incident is similar to another which formed the core of the 2012 investigation. Records from the investigation show that another student alleged that Manweller made sexual advances when she came to Manweller’s office to discuss a paper she was writing for a class.

In a written declaration included in the investigation’s report, the student said Manweller closed his office door and pulled her closer to him.

“Look, let’s be honest you don’t want to write the paper and I don’t want to read it, we can discuss it orally,” the student wrote in quoting what Manweller said next.

Another complaint came from a former CWU student who babysat for Manweller between 2015 and 2016. Manweller regularly complimented her appearance and hugged her goodbye in a way that made her uncomfortable, according to the university’s report. The report continues that Manweller repeatedly offered the babysitter alcohol and at one point offered to let her stay over for the night.

Manweller has previously described the incident, summing it up as “I offered my babysitter a glass of wine in the privacy of my home.” Manweller said that he did not remember inviting the woman to spend the night, according to the university’s report.

Manweller released a 72-page response to the report, written with Manweller’s input by his attorney, Douglas Nicholson.

In it, Manweller’s legal team said that Murphy “was unable to uncover anything about Dr. Manweller that remotely supports her finding of a ‘pattern’ of inappropriate conduct during the past decade.”

Manweller’s response also alleges that the lead investigator, Trish Murphy, repeatedly demonstrated bias that conflicted with the Collective Bargaining Agreement between CWU and its faculty, which mandates investigations be “conducted fairly and objectively.”

Manweller’s legal team points to several instances they said illustrate this point. In one case, Murphy’s report buried a comment from a student that said they thought Manweller was “really nice and did not feel uncomfortable around him,” Manweller’s response said.

Murphy’s use of a 2013 letter of reprimand from school officials was also proof of bias and “results-oriented” investigation by the investigator, according to Manweller’s response, as the letter was later retracted.

The response from Manweller’s legal team said that CWU overreacted to 2017 media reports of its previous investigations into Manweller, and that it proceeded to conduct “a Gestapo-like raid of his office” in its pursuit of Manweller’s termination.

Manweller’s response said that allegations stemming from the 2012 investigation were a centerpiece in the 2018 investigation, and that those allegations should be off-limits per a settlement agreement between the lawmaker and the university. The 2012 investigation centered on allegations that Manweller propositioned a student in his office when she came to him for classwork advice.

CWU’s legal council ignored reminders that the student’s “unsubstantiated allegations,” were off-limits, according to Manweller’s response.

Kirk Johnson, dean of the College of the Sciences, wrote in a letter to Manweller after the 2012 investigation that the university would not pursue any discipline against Manweller due to the time interval between the events and the investigation.

Johnson did not refer in his letter to any other credibility issues with student claims of sexual misconduct. In the same letter, Johnson said that he had “serious concerns about the behaviors described in the report,” and warned that future incidents could result in termination.

A termination letter sent to Manweller by Tim Englund, the current Dean of the College of the Sciences at CWU, said that the former dean had chosen in 2012 to give Manweller “the benefit of the doubt,” and made no formal determination into whether allegations were or were not substantiated. Englund said in the termination letter that he accepted Manweller’s argument that allegations stemming from the 2012 investigation should not be part of the university’s decision to discipline Manweller, but that allegations introduced after the 2012 investigation were sufficient to terminate Manweller.

“In sum, I remain concerned...that ‘you still do not understand boundaries and how to maintain those boundaries,’ to quote Dean Johnson’s letter of reprimand,” Englund wrote in the termination letter, referring to a letter sent to Manweller by Johnson in 2013.

Additionally, Englund said that Manweller should be dismissed due to his “insubordinate disregard” of instructions that Manweller was to have no contact with current or former students.

Manweller reached out to a former student two days after being advised of this restriction, according to the university’s report, and asked the student if reporters were contacting her about “Anything I should be concerned about?” The student replied, “Not from me,” and Manweller replied by thanking the student.

The full report can be read here:

Manweller’s response can be read here:

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