Ex-WSU administrator testifies he did not break any laws at the school

A Wright State University administrator fired amid an ongoing criminal probe of WSU’s use of a work visa program said in court today he had broken no laws, and the university’s former president admitted he personally had no evidence to the contrary.

The hearing was in the civil lawsuit brought by Ryan Fendley alleging Wright State failed to provide him a required nine months of notice before terminating him in 2015 shortly after the federal investigation became public.

The suit seeks nine months of pay and benefits totaling more than $150,000.

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“Did you ever violate any laws in connection with your employment with Wright State?” Fendley’s attorney Theodore Copetas asked him under oath.

“No,” Fendley responded, answering the same to whether he ever violated any rules or regulations.

Copetas argued that Wright State had every right to terminate Fendley, but could only deprive him of the required notice if they could demonstrate “just cause.”

WSU attorneys argued former President David Hopkins, who was sitting at the defense table, was lead to believe Fendley was about to be indicted for allegedly violating federal immigration law.

The federal investigation into WSU’s use of the H-1B visa program became public in mid-2015 when Fendley was suspended along with the provost, a researcher and the school’s chief general counsel.

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Fendley was the only one fired. The attorney retired with a separation agreement. The provost and researcher lost their administrative jobs but remain on paid leave as faculty more than two years later.

Hopkins testified that he took action after he and a university attorney met with U.S. attorneys at their office in Dayton for an hour.

“My impression was that three individuals employed by Wright State had conspired to commit visa fraud and my decision at that point, I thought, was for the best interest of the university to remove all three from their administrative positions,” he said.

Hopkins was prevented from testifying about exactly what U.S. attorneys told him that led him to that decision; the evidence was rejected by magistration Holly Shaver as second-hand “hearsay.”

Hopkins said Wright State didn’t conduct its own investigation of the allegations because they didn’t want to get in the way of the feds. For that reason, they had no documented evidence he had done anything wrong.

But WSU attorney Lee Ann Rabe said Fendley was well aware he was the target of a federal probe when he was fired.

“It strains credibility for Mr. Fendley to walk in here today and claim he has no idea why he was terminated by the university,” she said.

Fendley said the damages he was seeking would never replace all he lost when the university fired him.

“My reputation is in tatters in the community,” he said, his voice cracking. “And it’s been almost two years now and I haven’t been able to get a job.”

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