Former West Virginia University Provost Gerald E. Lang, who resigned last year in the wake of a degree scandal involving the daughter of West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, is suing the university and its Office of Academic Integrity.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Monongalia County Circuit Court and sealed by Judge Susan B. Tucker at the request of Dr. Lang's attorney, J. Michael Benninger. The order sealing the lawsuit also applies to exhibits filed with the complaint and remains in effect "until further order of the court," Judge Tucker wrote.
Dr. Lang's lawsuit seeks a writ of prohibition, a legal tactic used when accusing a state official or state agency of exceeding or abusing its authority.
Although the exact nature of the lawsuit was not available because of the judge's order to seal it, a source familiar with the complaint said it centers on an upcoming hearing by the Office of Academic Integrity.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette will challenge the sealing order and seek to make public the contents of the lawsuit and all court proceedings, according to Post-Gazette Executive Editor David M. Shribman.
"The Constitution requires that, with limited exceptions, court filings and proceedings be open to the public. This principle is of special importance where, as here, the suit involves claims of official misconduct," Post-Gazette attorney Fritz Byers said.
Named as defendants were WVU's Board of Governors, interim university President C. Peter Magrath, two WVU attorneys and law professor Marjorie A. McDiarmid.
Ms. McDiarmid is WVU's academic integrity officer and is in charge of the investigation of whether school officials should be disciplined for their involvement in the October 2007 decision to retroactively award an unearned M.B.A. degree to Mylan Inc. Chief Operating Officer Heather Bresch.
The probe was ordered in May by then-President Michael Garrison, who resigned in June.
Dr. Lang said he did not want to comment on the lawsuit without the advice of his attorney, who was out of town. Dr. Magrath, Ms. McDiarmid and board of governors Chairwoman Carolyn Long also declined comment.
Judge Tucker has scheduled a March 9 hearing at which WVU and the other defendants are to respond to Dr. Lang's complaint and show why the relief he is seeking should not be granted.
Dr. Lang announced his resignation as provost in April after an investigative panel determined that Ms. Bresch had not earned the degree and that top administrators falsified records to make it appear she earned it, adding courses to her transcript that she did not register for, pay for or complete.
Administrators also sought to cover up their actions, originally claiming that Ms. Bresch was the victim of a clerical error. "We have all the records. ... We have all the transcripts" confirming the degree, a spokeswoman said at the time, adding that Ms. Bresch simply had not been recorded as a graduate because she had not paid a $50 graduation fee.
Dr. Lang took a professional development leave and returned to work in January at WVU's research and economic development office, where he is responsible for identifying grant opportunities. He is paid an annual salary of $221,867 versus the $243,488 he was paid as provost, WVU said.