December 17, 2020
Today, Antonia Allen, the former Director of the Office of Internal Auditor (OIA) at WWU filed a lawsuit in Whatcom County Superior Court seeking damages flowing from her termination on November 30, 2019, which she alleges was in retaliation for investigating and reporting to her management (including WWU President Sabah Randhawa) and to federal and state authorities that WWU staff and faculty members in the Woodring College of Education offered and granted false academic credentials to students with the intent to bolster their credit loads for financial aid purposes–essentially, faculty were giving students credit for attending classes they did not in fact attend so they could obtain federal financial aid money. Ms. Allen concluded that those acts constituted financial aid fraud against the United States and she reported that conclusion to management.
Jack Sheridan, her attorney, said, “as Director of WWU OIA, Ms. Allen’s job was to be the conscience of the university, which often made her the messenger bringing bad news to management. This is one of those cases where her management (figuratively) shot the messenger rather than face the problem.” Her lawsuit alleges that her management criticized her for going to the federal government and for asserting that the ghost courses amounted to “financial aid fraud.” According to Sheridan, “by reporting this misconduct to the Department of Education’s Office of the Inspector General, she was protecting WWU from fines and penalties, which may have been levied by the federal government, had she not reported those improprieties.”
Her lawsuit also alleges that Ms. Allen uncovered ethics violations in which faculty were using state property and resources for personal gain. She reported this improper governmental action to the WWU management (including WWU President Sabah Randhawa), and management’s response was to seek an exception to the ethics law. This ethics issue began in 2018 and was still not resolved at the time of Ms. Allen’s termination in November 2019. Ms. Allen’s complaint alleges that this was another reason for her wrongful termination. A jury trial is expected to be set for late 2021 or early 2022.