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FOIA request reveals Capehart deal details

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo Robin Capehart
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo
Robin Capehart

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Liberty University has agreed not to make any legal claims against former president Robin Capehart, who will remain on the state payroll through the end of this year regardless of the outcome of the ethics complaint against him, according to his new contract with the school.

Capehart, who is accused of using his position and university resources to promote his private film company’s projects, officially stepped down as president Sunday. The university’s Board of Governors on Wednesday accepted his resignation and reassigned him as a legislative liaison and consultant through Dec. 31.

The Intelligencer obtained a copy of that agreement Monday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

According to the document, Capehart’s duties will be “monitoring … legislative activities relating to higher education with a monthly report to” Board of Governors Chairman George Couch, and advising the board on any matters related to higher education.

For performing those duties, Capehart will receive the same $220,000 annual salary he was collecting as president plus $1,000 per month in “vehicle reimbursement.” Any additional expenses would have to be pre-approved by the Board of Governors.

The agreement states Capehart will not be entitled to any benefits – such as health and life insurance, sick leave, annual leave or retirement benefits – while serving as a consultant to WLU. He also must leave the university-owned president’s house by June 1.

The agreement also forbids either Capehart or the Board of Governors from discussing the contract publicly, except through mutually agreed-upon statements. Citing that agreement, Capehart declined to comment Monday.

A hearing on the ethics charges is scheduled for April 16 in Wheeling. It was moved from Charleston for the convenience of witnesses, according to Ethics Commission Executive Director Rebecca Stepto.

It appears the outcome of that hearing will have no bearing on Capehart’s new role at WLU. The agreement approved Wednesday states the reassignment is “for a period guaranteed until December 31, 2015.”

Although WLU and Capehart have agreed not to seek any damages from each other for any matters related to Capehart’s time as president, the Ethics Commission under state law could order Capehart to pay restitution to the state if he is found guilty. He also could be fined up to $65,000 and ordered to reimburse the commission for investigative expenses.

Capehart has denied the allegations against him, which include that he improperly allowed former WLU employee Kristin Seibert to work as a producer for his film company, Flyover Films LLC, while the university was paying her as much as $4,000 per month to work as a consultant. He also is accused of spending time away from the university to promote his company’s 2011 movie “Doughboy” without taking leave, using his state purchasing card for expenses related to promoting the movie and paying for members of the film’s crew to attend a Wheeling YMCA fundraiser using public funds.

The Board of Governors named former university provost and vice president John McCullough as interim president. The state Higher Education Policy Commission approved the selection Friday.

Couch expects to appoint a search committee on April 15.

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