State agency: WSU police chief fired ‘without just cause’

A review by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found that Wright State University fired Michael Martinsen — the university’s former police chief suspended last year and dismissed in March — “without just cause.”

But a Wright State official cautioned that the ruling is not a comment on any kind of legal claim Martinsen may believe he has against the university.

Martinsen, WSU’s police chief since 2008, was placed on paid administrative leave last year while the university investigated informal complaints made against him alleging a hostile work environment, retaliation and misuse of a university-issued credit card.

Also last September: Two university employees dropped allegations of sexual harassment they had informally made against Martinsen, on the same day he defended himself in a public statement.

Martinsen denied all the charges, agreeing to a polygraph test.

He was ‘relieved of his duties’ on Sept. 16 last year. He was dismissed on March 17, 2014, according to the state.

The state’s review from the Office of Unemployment Compensation is dated July 2.

According to the department’s determination of compensation benefits obtained by this newspaper: “The employer discharged the claimant for stirring up resentment and/or dissatisfaction among other employees. However, it has not been established that the claimant’s actions created an adverse (effect) on the interests of the employer. Ohio’s legal standard that determines if a discharge is without just cause is whether the claimant’s acts, omissions, or course of conduct were such that an ordinary person would find the discharge not justifiable. After a review of the facts, this agency finds that the claimant was discharged without just cause under Section 4141.29(D)(2)(a), Ohio Revised Code.”

WSU released a statement in response to questions from this newspaper, saying: “The university did not oppose the awarding of unemployment benefits (to Martinsen). Mr. Martinsen was an at-will, administrative employee and was terminated in March pursuant to university policy. We wish Mr. Martinsen well in his future endeavors.”

A university spokeswoman said the state’s benefits determination has no bearing “over any claims Mr. Martinsen might have” regarding his employment at WSU.

“Mr. Martinsen was terminated because the university decided to go in a different direction,” said Stephanie Gottschlich, a spokeswoman for Wright State.

A spokesman for Ohio Department of Job and Family Services declined to comment on the benefits findings.

At the time WSU placed Martinsen on leave, the university told him in a letter that “the need to investigate is not a reflection upon your integrity, competence or ethics.” But the university said it had a “legal obligation to investigate.”

Martinsen was required to turn in his university-provided weapon, keys and badge, and was told to stay away from campus.

In a interview Monday, Martinsen said it was proven impossible for him to find employment in his professional area. “The Google searches — they’re a death sentence in my line of work.”

Martinsen said he wants an audience with WSU President David Hopkins and university trustees. He said he could file a federal lawsuit “if I wanted to.” But he added: “The absolute decision (on whether to sue the university) hasn’t been made at this time.”

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