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UPDATE: Faculty member resigns amid personnel investigation

Journalism and broadcasting faculty member Mark Ranzenberger resigned from Central Michigan University while being investigated by Faculty Personnel Services.

Ranzenberger submitted a hand-written letter of resignation to the university on March 21. Central Michigan Life obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request. He worked as a faculty member at CMU since 1999.

"I hereby voluntarily tender my irrevocable resignation from Central Michigan University, effective immediately," the letter said.

On the same day, Ranzenberger submitted a letter of resignation to the Mount Pleasant City Commission. He served on the city's planning commission.

"I hereby resign my position on the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission. Thank you to the City Commission, the other planning commissioners, the excellent city staff and the community for the chance to serve," he wrote.

The city commission will formally accept his resignation at its March 28 meeting. His term was set to expire in December.

CMU placed Ranzenberger on a paid leave of absence effective March 14, pending the results of the personnel investigation. Associate Vice President of University Communications Sherry Knight confirmed the investigation ceased once Ranzenberger resigned. He does not work for the university anymore, therefore is no longer being investigated by CMU.

CMU police officers executed a search warrant March 10 in Ranzenberger's Moore Hall office as part of a criminal investigation of child pornography found on the university-owned computer in his office.

Lt. Cameron Wassman released a statement March 14, regarding what was found on the computer.

“The investigation located other electronic media which fits the definition of ‘child pornography.’ There have not been any arrests made at this time, and the incident remains under investigation by the CMU Police Department.”

According to the Michigan Penal Code, child pornography appears to include a child engaged in sexually-explicit conduct. This can include photos, digital or computer-generated images, drawings, video or animations, and a wide variety of other visual and audio mediums. 

Producing, knowingly possessing, distributing or receiving child pornography is illegal.

Wassman said last week the police investigation will take longer than two weeks. He said CMUPD has identified a suspect, but declined to comment on whether the suspect is Ranzenberger. He said the investigation was prompted by a tip received from Faculty Personnel Services.

Dennis Armistead, executive director of Faculty Personnel Services, declined to comment on the investigation.

"Neither I, nor anyone in Faculty Personnel Services can discuss any personnel issues or comment on ongoing investigations," he said.

Ranzenberger said in an email on March 11 he had "no idea" why police removed a computer from his office. He has not responded to requests for comment since.

City Manager Nancy Ridley said replacing Ranzenberger on the planning commission could happen as early as its next meeting on April 11. The city commission's appointments committee will see if there is any applications on hand.

"They'll contact those people to see if they're interested in filling a partial term," she said.

Ridley said she doesn't know of any staff members who have had contact with Ranzenberger. Other than his letter of resignation, they have not heard from him. The city was waiting to see what would happen with the investigation, she said.

Knight said the university is cooperating with the police.

Stay with Central Michigan Life for more on this story.