ELLENSBURG — Central Washington University’s investigation into allegations against political science professor and state House of Representatives candidate Mathew Manweller determined that while “evidence exists to suggest” Manweller violated the university’s sexual harassment policy, the allegations could not be proven.
The university said it would not pursue discipline against Manweller because of the time between the allegations, which date to 2006, and the university’s investigation, which began in September and was completed earlier this month.
The investigative report was released Monday by the university after a Kittitas County judge lifted a temporary restraining order barring release. Manweller had sought to make the order permanent, while the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Ellensburg Daily Record had requested the investigation be made public.
Superior Court Judge Scott Sparks said he believes anonymous tips to the two newspapers that triggered the records request were politically motivated. But Sparks said regardless of motive, the allegations involved Manweller’s actions as a public employee and were not of a private, personal nature.
Sparks noted that Manweller did not oppose a July public records request made by the Herald-Republic for documents concerning allegations made from 2006 to 2007. That records request and a subsequent one made by the Herald-Republic on Oct. 3 were based on tips from anonymous sources.
Manweller is a Republican running against Democrat Kaj Selmann, a general contractor from Moses Lake, to replace retiring 13th District Rep. Bill Hinkle, R-Cle Elum.
In a second ruling issued at Monday’s hearing, Sparks denied a motion from the university to dismiss Manweller’s lawsuit against the university alleging the investigation was politically motivated. Manweller filed the lawsuit Oct. 19, three days before the university’s deadline to disclose the records.
Manweller’s Ellensburg attorney, Douglas Nicholson, said he would look to amend the complaint to include demands for monetary damages against the university.
Manweller, 42, did not attend the hearing and did not return calls for comment. He released a statement through his campaign expressing disappointment with the judge’s ruling but said he will not appeal.
“We sought to block the release of the report because I have never been inappropriate with a student, and the report was so unprofessionally crafted,” Manweller wrote. “It includes rumors, innuendo, unattributed quotes, and hearsay.”
The investigation was conducted by Wenatchee attorney Ernest Radillo of the law firm Ogden, Murphy, Wallace. Radillo wrote he was only able to locate and interview one of the two women who made accusations against Manweller. The report included a statement from the woman, a former political science student who graduated in 2007.
Names of both the accused and accuser were redacted from the investigative report released by Central in order to comply with state and federal records laws. However, it was clear that Manweller was the accused, because the records were given in response to requests specifically seeking documents related to investigations of him.
According to the report, the woman stood by her allegations of sexual advances by Manweller from 2006. In telephone interviews and in a written statement to the investigator, the woman, now an attorney in California, said she never filed a formal complaint because she and her boyfriend at the time were relying on Manweller for letters of recommendation to be accepted into law school.
She said she considered Manweller to be one of the best professors in the political science department, but she refused to take any more of his classes after he made sexual advances toward her during a meeting in his office on campus. She said she regrets not filing a formal complaint, but feared retribution from Manweller as she entered her senior year in 2007.
“It deeply disturbs me that I did not, because I honestly believe that Professor (Manweller) is a very intelligent, manipulative, sexually aggressive individual who will again abuse the power of his position for sexual favors,” she wrote to the investigator on Sept. 26.
The investigator, Radillo, also wrote that in initial interviews Manweller said he did not know who the student accuser is, although Radillo confirmed the student took several classes with him and that Manweller wrote her and her then-boyfriend letters of recommendation. Radillo also confirmed that while a formal complaint was not filed, the issue had been discussed in 2007 between Manweller and at least two other high-ranking university officials.
The report also details the university’s response to the allegations from 2006 to 2007, and lists possible shortcomings in its efforts to deal with them.
According to the report, political science department head Todd Schaefer was informed of the allegations by the student in 2006. But at her request, he did not discuss them with staff or human resources until another university official contacted him in 2007 to discuss rumors similar in nature about Manweller. Schaefer previously declined comment to the Herald-Republic on the investigation in September.
“Dr. Schaefer stated he has always felt bad about what happened to (the student), but felt he could not do anything to help her since she did not want to file a formal written complaint,” Radillo wrote.
According to the report, CWU at the time had an informal policy of not investigating unless a formal complaint was filed. The investigation began this year on the heels of the Herald-Republic’s first public records request; university officials expressed concerns in court documents that the lack of a formal investigation created a liability for the university under the antidiscrimination law Title IX.
In 2007, Manweller denied the allegations to Schaefer and CWU Office of Equal Opportunity director Nancy Howard, who provided Manweller with a copy of the university’s sexual harassment policy. Following the release of the formal investigation in October, Manweller was again provided with a copy of the university’s sexual harassment policy.
Manweller told the investigator that he believes rumors of his involvement with students stem from a misinterpretation of his relationship with his ex-wife, a former university student who Manweller met before his employment there began in 2003. The two were married in 2000 but divorced in 2008, according to court documents.
The Monday hearing on the release of the investigation was originally scheduled for Nov. 5, the day before the election. It was moved to Monday following a request from an attorney for the Herald-Republic and Daily Record.
• Mike Faulk can be reached at 509-577-7675 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mike_Faulk.