Judge halts WVU hearing

by Justin Anderson |
Apr. 27, 2009, 8:15am

MORGANTOWN – A circuit judge has blocked the scheduled academic misconduct hearing for former West Virginia University Provost Gerald Lang, ruling that three lawyers involved in the process have conflicts of interest.

Monongalia Circuit Judge Susan B. Tucker added in her order Friday that the university should also halt hearings for two other academic officials involved in the scandal over a wrongly awarded degree to Gov. Joe Manchin's daughter.

Lang filed a petition in February to block the hearing – which was to be held today -- because two of the WVU officials involved in the beginning stages of the misconduct proceedings against Lang, former business school dean Stephen Sears and professor Cyril Logar were under the direction of Alex Macia, who was WVU's general counsel during the scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Mike Garrison.

Sears and Logar tried to intervene in Lang's case, but were denied the opportunity by Tucker, who said their motions came too late; although she did urge WVU to apply her ruling on Lang's petition to the other scheduled hearings.

Lang argued that Beverly Kerr and current General Counsel Mary Roberta Brandt should not have participated in the misconduct proceedings because they had worked for Macia.

Academic Integrity Officer Marjorie McDiarmid also had a conflict because she worked with Kerr and Brandt and Macia during the early stages of the misconduct proceeding, Lang argued.

Lang contended the conflict exists because Macia acted as counsel to him and other university officials at an Oct. 15, 2007 meeting during which it was decided that Heather Bresch would be awarded an executive masters of business administration degree she did not earn.

The argument is that Macia advised Lang and other university administrators on actions they are now being investigated for by a panel that either included or was assisted by members of Macia's staff.

"Petitioner Lang and other persons in the October 15, 2007 meeting would have understood that General Counsel's office would be representing them because their actions were taken in their official capacities on behalf of the University," Tucker wrote in her order.

"However, when communication began between Garrison, Respondent McDiarmid and General Counsel Macia, having given legal advice, and continuing to give legal advice to persons under investigation for acts in which he was directly involved and of which he had personal knowledge, a conflict of interest chain of events began."

Garrison had asked that the matter be investigated for possible academic misconduct.

Tucker, in her order, denied motions to dismiss Lang's petition filed by Kerr, Brandt, McDiarmid, the WVU Board of Governors and university President Peter Magrath.

Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 09-C-114

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