Calvo, Underwood clash over UOG case
by John O'Connor
Guam Daily Post
In light of Gov. Eddie Calvo’s claims that University of Guam leadership stood up for indicted professor Michael Ehlert, UOG President Robert Underwood held a press conference yesterday describing these statements as “incomplete and misinformed.”
In the press conference, Underwood addressed several concerns outlined in a statement released by the governor. Namely, that two women involved in a case against Ehlert were mistreated and that the university acted in his favor.
“In the news and in email I’ve seen, UOG leadership has stood up for the alleged predator … and hasn’t said a thing about the victims,” Calvo said. “Silence is wrong. Institutionalized silence should be criminal.”
Underwood said actions against Ehlert were made based on information available at the time. In November 2014, a sexual harassment complaint was made against Ehlert at UOG and he was placed on administrative leave shortly after. An internal investigation was launched and Ehlert was suspended without pay for three months in March.
Underwood said he contacted the chief of police in December 2015 to inquire if an active investigation was moving forward against Ehlert. When this was confirmed, Ehlert was again put on administrative leave. He was indicted on Jan. 11.
Underwood said the indictment revealed information not revealed during UOG’s internal investigation. He said Ehlert has not been in the classroom since being placed on leave.
Underwood added that Ehlert’s future at the university hinged on the results of his court case. But if the case dragged on UOG would have to come up with a decision “based on the information that is in the indictment.”
He said there was no institutionalized silence at UOG as the governor stated. In the upcoming semester, UOG plans to conduct a sexual harassment climate survey to gauge perceptions around the issue.
“We intend to complete the revision of the sexual harassment/consensual sex policy and conduct more professionally based training. In addition, we will be re-organizing our (equal employment opportunity) office to include an additional staffer to deal with EEO issues specifically with students and Title IX.”
The governor also criticized actions allegedly taken against UOG associate professor Ron McNinch. He said McNinch was being “persecuted” for standing up for the women involved in Ehlert’s case. McNinch had spoken extensively about student safety and has made calls for stricter rules regarding teacher and student fraternization since the incident with Ehlert was first made public in August 2015.
McNinch has now filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that the university was retaliating by launching an investigation against him.
Underwood rejected the idea that there was any “persecution” against McNinch. Underwood said the professor was under investigation for statements he made in August 2015, when he claimed to have been reporting criminal behavior at UOG for the past 18 years.
“I have begun an investigation into the veracity of the commentary that he made as a violation of UOG policy,” Underwood said.
UOG President: Governor Calvo's statements "misinformed"
Gov. Eddie Calvo’s characterization of how University of Guam leadership handled sexual misconduct allegations against an associate professor is misinformed, UOG President Robert Underwood said Friday.
Underwood called a press conference Friday within a few hours of the governor releasing an address discussing the case involving Michael B. Ehlert, an associate professor of psychology that a Superior Court grand jury recently indicted on criminal sexual misconduct and official misconduct charges.
Ehlert is accused of using his authority as a teacher to force sexual acts on two female students, who were 19 and 23 at the time of the alleged October 2014 incident, according to court documents.
He is scheduled to appear at a Jan. 27 court hearing for an arraignment, which gives him a chance to enter a plea.
In his address, the governor said, in part: “UOG leadership has stood up for the alleged predator … and hasn’t said a thing about the victims.”
Underwood, at the press conference, responded to the governor’s words.
“Gov. Calvo’s statement making a judgment about the case involving Dr. Ehlert and his characterization of the university’s treatment of the two women involved are incomplete and misinformed,” Underwood said.
“It is not often that the standing of the university and its leadership becomes a direct concern to the governor,” he added.
A sexual harassment complaint against Ehlert was filed at UOG on Nov. 3, 2014, and the associate professor was removed from the classroom and placed on administrative leave a week later, according to a time line Underwood released.
On Nov. 7, 2014, UOG launched its investigation, and during this time, the victims were contacted multiple times to ensure they had access to adequate resources, according to Underwood.
In his address, Calvo said sexual predators have gotten away with molesting women and children because no one would say anything.
He added: “Unfortunately, that still happens in some cases. But, we’ve gotten better over the past few years. We’ve helped each other to understand that we have a moral and a legal duty to speak up for people being abused. Silence is wrong. Institutionalized silence should be criminal.”
The Guam Attorney General’s Office recently released information on how any additional victim or witness can contact the AG’s office, which has an ongoing investigation into the Ehlert case.
“If there are any more victims and witnesses — whether student or faculty — I urge you to come forward,” the governor said in a prepared statement. “Report this to the police or the prosecutors. Call Chief Prosecutor Phil Tydingco at 475-3406, at extension 2410.”
“The law is on your side,” the governor stated, addressing the two alleged victims. “It is just too bad how the executives of the school you pay for a higher education treated you this way.”
UOG confirmed to the Pacific Daily News in August last year that Ehlert was suspended in connection with “unwanted sexual advances” on two of his students, at an off-campus activity for one of his psychology classes.
In a memo to the UOG community on Jan. 13 this year, Underwood stated: “The indictment makes allegations and outlines behavior which are far more egregious and even more serious than any revealed in our internal, administrative investigation.”
Ehlert had been scheduled to return to UOG for the 2016 spring semester classes until Underwood decided in late December — before the indictment — to place Ehlert on administrative leave and barred the associate professor of psychology from contact with students on campus.
The governor also said the professor “who tried to stand up for the young ladies was persecuted, with a formal complaint against him for speaking up.”
A UOG associate professor, Ron McNinch, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Education, stating he’s being retaliated against after having publicly voiced concerns about the Ehlert case.
McNinch wrote, in a Jan. 19 email to EEOC and U.S. DOE, that the university faculty union's president, Donald Platt, has sought disciplinary action against McNinch.
Platt has denied having sought disciplinary action against McNinch, but McNinch said Platt has written to the UOG president about a work-related allegation that is a cause for disciplinary and adverse action.
Platt wrote, in part, in emails to faculty and Underwood, that McNinch “concocted a fake sexual harassment crisis at UOG — fake because the facts don’t back up his claim — that he lied about filing reports on male faculty members to the criminal justice system at various times over the past 18 years, and that he exploited the Ehlert case as the ostensible reason for going public at the start of this semester.”
Underwood has said the allegations Platt has raised against McNinch has nothing to do with the whistle-blowing.
“I understand the whistleblower law and I respect it,” Underwood said. “I understand everyone should … if they see a crime, or they suspect a crime, then they are free to go to the authorities and report those, but of course we expect as well that they report it to the university as well.”
Underwood said McNinch isn’t being persecuted, as the governor has alleged.
“Truth is a requirement in order for balance to occur,” Underwood said. “In the statement of Gov. Calvo, I fear that the absence of much of the information that I have presented has created an imbalance in his public statement."
Governor critical of leadership at UOG
by Isa Baza
Gov. Calvo questions UOG leadership, Underwood responds
Pacific News Center
In response, the president of UOG Dr. Robert Underwood held a press conference to respond to the Gov.’s statement.
Gov. Calvo's statement comes a couple of days after UOG Prof. Dr. Ron Mcninch revealed that he had filed a complaint against the university for what he says is retaliation against him for speaking out against crimes at UOG. Additionally Calvo's statement calls on victims, student or faculty, to come forward and call cheif prosecutor Phillip Tydincgo at the AG's office to report. Calvo is referring to the university's handling of the case of prof. Michael Elhert who was indicted last week on charges of criminal sexual conduct. Court documents state that Ehlert digitally penetrated two of his students at an off campus Halloween party in 2014. For his part, Underwood said in a press conference that Calvo's statements about UOG's handling of the Ehlert case are "incomplete and misinformed." Additionally, Underwood takes full responsibility for UOG's handling of the Ehlert case. In Mcninch's case, Underwood says there is an investigation looking into the claims made by Mcninch that the public administration Prof. has reported 'criminal behavior' to the university over the course of 18 years. Underwood says the investigation is looking into whether or not Mcninch actually reported these alleged crimes. On Mcninch, Underwood said, "the matter concerning Dr. Mcninch is of interest only because he has made it so, but it is not an integral part of our activities.