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Ex-WVU employee files wrongful termination suit

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A former West Virginia University employee is suing the Board of Governors for wrongful termination and defamation, claiming he was fired in June because he blew the whistle on alleged improprieties in the school's handling of federal stimulus money.

R. Michael Kennedy-Chuey, a resident of Fayette County, Pa., claims he was axed after he complained to the Office of Inspector General and other federal officials that the university had ignored "Buy American" requirements in grants awarded through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Hired as an internal auditor at WVU in 2006, Kennedy-Chuey said he was promoted to financial compliance officer three years later and also was given responsibility for managing the WVU Tax Services Department. In 2009 he also was assigned to the project committee administering WVU's stimulus funding.

Kennedy-Chuey said he'd told university officials of his concern over the way stimulus money was being used and that when they failed to act, he contacted U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., as well as the U.S. Recovery & Accountability Transparency Board in Washington.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg, claims Durbin learned of Kennedy-Chuey's conversations "about potential improprieties in the NIH contract" in 2012, relieved him of his ARRA responsibilities in February 2013 and then fired him four months later.  

"The logical inference to be drawn is that Mr. Durbin retaliated against Mr. Kennedy-Chuey for his reports of gross mismanagement of the federal grants related to the ARRA stimulus funds awarded to WVU and to its affiliate, the WVU Research Corporation," the suit alleges. "This action by Defendant Durbin is the pretext for the non-renewal of Mr. Kennedy-Chuey's employment contract on June 30."

Kennedy-Chuey's conversations with federal officials were "a substantial factor in the decision to terminate (his) employment," the suit claims.

He is seeking unspecified damages.

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