An investigation into Washington state Rep. Matt Manweller has found that he engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior with female students while he was a professor at Central Washington University, including allegations of unwanted touching, suggestive conversations and “offering an educational benefit in exchange for sex.”
The 85-page report, produced by an investigator hired by CWU and released Wednesday, is the most detailed look at allegations of misconduct against Manweller during his 15-year career at the university, where he taught political science until his firing last week. The university released a termination letter in which Tim Englund, the dean of the college of sciences, told Manweller the university “cannot tolerate your persistent inability to observe acceptable standards of professional ethics.”
Manweller, a Republican who has been in the Legislature since 2012, has blasted the investigation as politically motivated, biased and focused on minor issues.
“It was just the death of a thousand little cuts,” Manweller said in a video on his website, calling the allegations “trivial” and “nit-picky.” He’s now seeking $2 million as part of a claim against the university.
Most Read Local Stories
- The mystery behind a private fireworks show that shook Seattle
- 'Potent' system to bring gusty winds and heavy rain to Seattle area
- Body recovered after woman swept into ocean off Olympic Peninsula
- As WA's first fall rainstorm continues, here's how to drive safely
- Free at-home COVID tests are back. Here's how to order
The investigation looked into concerns raised by 15 current and former female students, according to the report.
One of the women said she was a student in 2009 when Manweller leaned in, put his hand on her leg during a meeting and said “There’s always a way for you to get an A in this class.” She understood him to mean that a sexual favor could earn her a positive grade, according to the report. The woman says she immediately dropped Manweller’s class.
Manweller denied touching the woman’s knee, according to the report. In his online video, he said the woman was worried she was going to fail the class and that he had tried to comfort her and tell her she could succeed. He said he hasn’t thought of the conversation since, until the investigator brought it up to him.
“She took that as an offer or a suggestion of sex for a grade,” Manweller said. “I was flabbergasted. I was offended. I was embarrassed.”
The woman’s allegation mirrors a previous allegation from a student in 2006. That woman had reported previously and reiterated as part of the latest investigation that Manweller had commented in a meeting that the two of them had a sexual energy and that they could discuss her work “orally” at a hotel. Manweller also denied that allegation.
Some of the interviews in the latest report focus on issues from Manweller’s early years at the university, including one involving a then-student who was in high school but taking classes at the university. She said that in a visit to Manweller’s office he told her that his wife was out of town for the weekend, that he would be alone and that he could “chaperone” her to a movie, according to the report. Manweller said he didn’t recall the girl.
Other allegations in the report were more recent. A student who baby-sat for Manweller in 2015 and 2016 said he repeatedly commented on her looks, “telling her how beautiful she is, how hot she is, and that she is a ’10,'” according to the report. She reported that Manweller repeatedly offered her drinks and joked that she could stay over at the house. Manweller denied complimenting the woman’s looks and said he or his wife would occasionally offer drinks and any overnight comments would have been a joke.
Manweller said in a news release that Trish Murphy, a lawyer the university hired to investigate his conduct, had no credibility. He released an affidavit in which one woman reported that Murphy asked leading questions and “kept trying to put words in my mouth.” He also relayed two messages from others who had concerns about Murphy’s techniques. Murphy declined to comment.
“In every case, Central has hired outside investigators to compel women to make after-the-fact, decades old allegations,” Manweller said in his news release Wednesday.
In another case detailed in the report, a CWU student who attended a reception in Olympia in 2014 said Manweller kept looking at her chest, standing close to her and then commented that they needed to get to know each other better, according to the report. The report said she used the terms “gross” and “creeped out” to describe the interaction. Manweller said he did not remember the woman.
The investigation also examined the case of a woman whose allegations were described in a Seattle Times story this past year. That woman worked at the Legislature and had complained that a meeting with Manweller had turned into what felt like a date that included flirtatious comments and actions. Manweller says he was just being polite.
One of the previous investigations had focused on a student who reported that Manweller invited her to a bar in 2006 and propositioned her and a friend to have a threesome. Manweller disputed the account but conceded he may have said something in the bar meeting that caused offense. After that case, records show the dean issued a letter of reprimand, which Manweller said was later withdrawn as part of a settlement.
The Times detailed the first two investigations in a story this past fall. Afterward, his first wife said she believes Manweller was grooming her when she was a high-school sophomore and he was a teacher at her school. The two married in June 2000, shortly after her graduation, and divorced eight years later. Manweller has denied being inappropriate with his first wife.
CWU placed Manweller on leave this past year as it launched the new investigation. Manweller also stepped down from his position as assistant floor leader in the House.