Former Wright State University president David Hopkins dismissed one top administrator and suspended several others after U.S. attorneys presented him with evidence indicating they had violated laws regarding work visas.
This is according to testimony by Hopkins in a state civil lawsuit filed by Ryan Fendley, former advisor to the provost who was fired in 2015. A transcript of Hopkins’ testimony was obtained by the I-Team using Ohio public records laws.
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These details come as WSU’s board chairman and vice chairman call for the firing of two former administrators who have been on paid leave during the ongoing probe.
Hopkins testified that he first met with U.S. attorneys in their Dayton office in February 2015, where they informed the WSU president they were investigating his employees’ use of H-1B work visas.
Hopkins met with the named employees – provost Sundaram Narayanan, Fendley and researcher Phani Kidambi – and told them to stay out of the way of the investigation, and each get a lawyer.
All three employees were suspended in May.
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Then in August 2015 federal agents met again with Hopkins and laid out documents, including contracts with the local IT staffing firm Web Yoga.
Among other things, those documents suggested the contract with Web Yoga was for research that was not actually happening.
An I-Team investigation found the contract did include bringing over foreign workers on H-1B visas to work for other companies in an arrangement experts said may have violated federal laws.
That’s when Wright State fired Fendley and suspended Narayanan and Kidambi. Hopkins said he would have fired them as well, but they were under the faculty union and couldn’t be fired until they were indicted.
But, Hopkins said, the university didn’t do its own internal investigation of the allegations.
And the records he saw didn’t indicate Fendley received any money from the company.
In fact, when pressed, Hopkins could not identify any specific policy Fendley had violated.
But, Hopkins said, he was left with the strong impression the trio would soon be indicted (that was nearly two years ago).
Hopkins was also asked about work done by forensic auditing firm Plante Moran, which the university paid more than $300,000 for an audit it refuses to release.
Hopkins said the audit did not focus on the Web Yoga contract, but looked at all other aspects of Wright State Applied Research Corporation and the Wright State Research Institute.
That report, he said, found nothing criminal, but some “sloppy” work.
Hopkins ran into Fendley at a funeral in September 2015, and said he wished he could have him back at WSU.
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