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State lawmaker Matt Manweller fired from Central Washington University

Washington Legislature
Washington Legislature
On Tuesday, Central Washington University announced it had terminated GOP state Rep. Matt Manweller from his position as a tenured professor following a workplace conduct investigation

Central Washington University on Tuesday fired Republican state Rep. Matt Manweller from his position as a tenured professor of political science following a months-long investigation into his conduct toward students. 

In a statement, the university did not provide details on the findings of the investigation, but said the investigative report by Trish Murphy of Northwest Workplace Law will be released later this month.

"The University stands by Ms. Murphy's comprehensive investigative report and is confident that the report will withstand public scrutiny," the statement said. 

Manweller is currently seeking his fourth term as a state representative. In last week's primary election, he received nearly 64 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Sylvia Hammond.

"It is never easy to stand up to a bully, but I am glad the voters in the 13th district are supporting my efforts," Manweller wrote Tuesday, calling the primary results a "landslide." 

Manweller also said the firing was not a suprise. "Over nine months ago the University communicated to me that they were going to terminate my employment regardless of what the investigation revealed," Manweller wrote in a text message. "Today, they made good on that threat."

In 2012 and 2013, Manweller was the subject of back-to-back investigations at CWU into allegations that he sexually harassed and even sexually propositioned female students as far back as 2006. None of the findings were formally substantiated, but a dean did reprimand Manweller for using poor judgment. Manweller challenged that reprimand and the university ultimately paid his attorney fees and promoted him to full professor.

Last December, Manweller said the university placed him on leave and decided to investigate him again after receiving calls and emails from former students following a series of news stories about the past allegations against him.

Manweller said Tuesday he plans to file a lawsuit against Central Washington University (CWU) and the investigator. The union that represents CWU faculty can also appeal his termination.

"[S]everal women have come foward to sign affidavits noting that the investigator asked incredibly leading questions, badgered witnesses that did not agree with her narrative and tried to put words in their mouths," Manweller wrote. 

Manweller previously released one affidavit from a former CWU student, Isa Holsclaw, who said she felt "pressured" to say things to Murphy "that were not true."

"Overall, I felt like Ms. Murphy was engaging in a 'witch hunt' against Professor Manweller," she wrote.

Later Tuesday, Manweller forwarded two more statements from a former student and a former babysitter alleging that Murphy, the investigator, had asked leading questions and didn’t want to hear “positive information” about Manweller.

Murphy, the investigator, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

In a videoposted to Facebook on August 1,Manweller—who has seen a copy of the investigation—said there was nothing in the report to apologize for and ran through a list of what he called "trivial" allegations against him that spanned a decade. "The things that are true are not inappropriate and the things that are inappropriate are not true." 

"Let's be clear, Central is not responding to allegations, they're manufacturing allegations," Manweller also said in his Facebook video. 

The statement Tuesday from CWU assailed Manweller for those comments on the investigation, which Manweller described as partisan-driven.

"The University deeply regrets that Dr. Manweller has chosen to make public statements minimizing, trivializing, even ridiculing, the female students who have come forward with legitimate concerns," the statement said.

"The University trusts that the investigation report—and the University's response—will fully address and validate the concerns of our students, and we thanks them for their courage in coming forward," the statement continued.

In an interview last December with public radio, The News Tribune and The Olympian, Manweller said he "might have been" flirtatious with students before, but it wasn't his intent to "ever cross a line."

Previously, Manweller stepped down as assistant floor leader for House Republicans and was stripped of his role as the ranking Republican on the House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee. Manweller currently serves as vice-chair of the state Select Committee on Pension Policy. 

House Republican Leader J.T. Wilcox said had just learned of Manweller's termination from CWU and could not immediately comment. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."