Rep. Matt Manweller is suing Central Washington University for breach of contract.
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Rep. Matt Manweller is suing Central Washington University for breach of contract.
Credit: Washington Legislature

Rep. Matt Manweller sues Central Washington University after firing

Rep. Matt Manweller (R-Ellensburg), who is seeking a fourth term in the state legislature, is suing Central Washington University after the school fired the legislator following a workplace conduct investigation. Manweller was a tenured professor of political science before he was fired.

In 2012 and 2013, Central Washington University investigated allegations that Manweller had sexually harassed female students as far back as 2006. The university did not substantiate the allegations or discipline Manweller in the first investigation, but a dean reprimanded Manweller following the second. Manweller defended himself against the reprimand, and the university paid his attorney's fees. He was subsequently promoted to a tenured professorship.

Last winter, Central Washington University placed Manweller on leave and launched a fresh investigation into his workplace conduct after news stories surfaced the previous allegations. The university hired Seattle attorney Trish Murphy of Northwest Workplace Law to complete the investigation report.

This week, Manweller was fired.

His lawsuit alleges that Central Washington University wrongfully fired him, and also lists Trish Murphy as a defendant. Manweller's claim accuses Murphy of failing to "act in good faith as a fair and neutral investigator."

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After his firing, Manweller shot back at the university in a video posted to Facebook, calling the investigation politically motivated.

In that video, Manweller said he had seen a copy of the report on the investigation into his behavior—a report that the university has not yet released to the public.

In a statement attached to his lawsuit, Manweller cited the 2012 investigation, payment from the university, and promotion as evidence that the university was attacking him for his views. Manweller accused the university of trying to "silence my high-profile Republican voice on campus."

"Thousands of students have taken my political science classes where I challenge them to think objectively, and approach politics from all sides, not just the left," Manweller's statement continued. "Students do not always agree with me, but we have healthy, constructive debates. Clearly academic freedom has limits at Central when it comes to conservatives."

A spokesperson for Central Washington University said the university could not comment on pending litigation, but said Trish Murphy's investigation report would be made available at the end of August. The university said this date is in accordance with public disclosure laws that require two-weeks notice to an employee for the release of personnel files.

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"Dr. Manweller is of course free at any time to authorize the University’s release of the report," Central Washington University public affairs vice president Kremiere Jackson said by email.

Manweller told KUOW by email that he planned to authorize the release of the report "sometime next week."

Manweller's claim alleges breach of contract against the university, and intentional interference and professional negligence against Murphy. Murphy declined to comment on the litigation.

Manweller is seeking more than $2 million worth of damages.

The Northwest News Network's Austin Jenkins contributed reporting.

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