Wheeling University’s current or former president, whom the school said it placed on leave about two months ago, is alleging the university lied to its accrediting body and other regulators about its finances, misspent donations and retaliated against him for investigating and reporting such issues.
It’s unclear whether Michael Mihalyo is actually the current president of the private school, formerly called Wheeling Jesuit University.
The lawsuit he filed Friday said he was put on leave, but the school sent out a news release Monday afternoon saying that the school’s Board of Trustees had chosen Ginny Favede, who became chairwoman of the board in July, as the new president.
Mihalyo’s suit is against Favede, the broader board and university, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, several Catholic leaders and others. The suit says the Diocese has full power over the board.
“Wheeling University’s policy is to not comment on current or pending litigation. Wheeling University will address all concerns in the proper venue,” Julia Cook, director of communications for Wheeling University, wrote in an email Monday afternoon.
Tim Bishop, communications director for the Diocese, said “anything that’s in the lawsuit, I’m sorry, we can’t comment on that because it is pending ligation. ... We will address the suit in its proper forum, which is the court of law.”
The suit says Mihalyo began a financial investigation.
He said its findings included that “data given to regulatory agencies had been manipulated to conceal the true financial state of the University for the purpose of obtaining a higher ratio. Large sums of money were unaccounted for.”
Teresa Toriseva, a Wheeling-based attorney representing Mihalyo, said the referenced ratio is one assigned by the U.S. Education Department based on various financial factors, and it affects the school’s ability to access federal financial aid, like subsidized student loans and Pell Grants.
The suit says Mihalyo told the Board of Trustees that the school must report these alleged issues uncovered by the investigation.
He said the school did some reporting by filing a formal complaint with the Higher Learning Commission, the accrediting body that’s supposed to ensure the quality of Wheeling University and other colleges. He said the school also told the Higher Learning Commission and the state Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), the state’s four-year college oversight agency, about the “financial findings and manipulation of data for the purpose of achieving a higher accreditation score.”
Mihalyo also said “some donors” and the state Attorney General’s Office were given some information, but the suit says “despite the urging of [Mihalyo], no self-reporting occurred to the federal government, the NCAA, or remaining donors/trust holders.”
He alleges the school retaliated against him for his investigation and self-reporting by placing him “on administrative leave shortly before he was to meet with the HEPC for reauthorization.” He alleges the school said he couldn’t meet with regulatory agencies without at least one board member and legal counsel present.
He alleged deception had taken place in order for the school to continue to receive accreditation despite financial issues.
Mihalyo also makes other allegations in his suit. He’s seeking to be paid through the end of his contract on Aug. 15, 2021, among other monetary damages.