MSU CAMPUS — A Michigan State administrator accused of covering up sexual assaults at another university has been earning a six-figure salary despite having "no assigned duties" since the beginning of March.
Melody Werner left her role as Title IX director for Eastern Michigan University to start at MSU in November 2019 as the director of the Office of Institutional Equity, where she oversaw all Title IX complaints and reports for the university.
Werner entered into a separation agreement with MSU on Sept. 28 that allows her to retain her salary of over $141,000 and benefits until June 1 or until she finds new employment. Werner continued to be paid despite having “no assigned duties” after Feb. 29, according to the terms of the agreement. The existence of the separation agreement was first reported by the Lansing State Journal.
Dan Olsen, deputy spokesperson for Michigan, said the separation agreement was decided mutually to streamline responsibilities within the Office of Institutional Equity.
“Melody Werner agreed to leave her role due to redundancy in the role of the director of the Office of Institutional Equity following changes last year to the federal Title IX regulations. This resignation created opportunities to streamline responsibilities within the unit,” Olsen said.
He says MSU was unaware of any investigation at Eastern Michigan University until it was public knowledge and that the terms of Werner's agreement are not abnormal.
“She is not allowed to or entitled to take or cash out her vacation time. And so, during this time, she's entitled to use that vacation time. And so that is what is being done at this point in time,” Olsen said.
Werner also said in a written statement that the decision to part ways with Michigan State was a personal decision completely unrelated to Eastern Michigan University.
“My first grandchild arrived in March 2020 and I was eager to be completely available. I had no knowledge about the lawsuit at Eastern Michigan University when I made the decision to leave,” she said.
The agreement was signed within days of EMU’s decision to hire an external firm to investigate Werner’s former office at Eastern Michigan.
“It was strictly coincidental that the separation agreement was entered into effect at the same time that Eastern Michigan was looking into Title IX cases,” Olsen said.
Back in March, Todd Flood, the lawyer representing 11 EMU students who allege that Werner and other faculty failed to comply with Title IX in handling their sexual assault claims, said the suit against Eastern Michigan is an effort to hold them accountable to their students.
“Title IX is supposed to investigate these claims, and when they don't manage it properly, then there can be a cause of action to hold them accountable,” Flood said.
Werner categorically denies allegations against her levied in the lawsuit against EMU.
“My career as a Title IX professional has been dedicated to exactly the opposite - encouraging survivors to come forward and report what happened to them, and then to support them in any way possible,” she said.
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