CMU names external counsel to lead investigation regarding Vanguard Public Affairs
Central Michigan University named Matthew Schneider of Honigman, LLP to lead an investigation of two university employees who may have had prior knowledge of the claims made against T.J. Bucholz of Vanguard Public Affairs, according to a March 30 press release.
“It is critical that we bring in outside counsel to provide an independent and thorough review of what took place,” Board of Trustees Chair Richard Studley said. “We are determined to be very transparent. We want to understand what policies, practices and procedures may need to be examined to ensure we have structures to protect our students when they are placed in workplaces meant to provide them with invaluable and practical experiences to successfully pursue their careers.”
Before joining Honigman, Schneider served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. As the chief federal law enforcement officer in 34 counties, he supervised and directed all federal litigation within the District and directly interacted with 21 different federal judges.
“Schneider is a well-known and well-respected lawyer and trusted advisor,” Davies said. “His background enables him to provide effective counsel in a number of areas, including internal investigations. Retaining outside counsel will assure that CMU proceeds in a fair and impartial manner and that this investigation goes where the facts lead it.”
On Wednesday the Detroit Free Press published testimonies from five women who accused Vanguard Public Affairs president and managing partner T.J. Bucholz, a 1994 CMU alumnus, of sexually harassing young women.
The women came forward after Michigan LGBTQ+ activist Emily Dievendorf posted to Facebook about her experience. Dievendorf told the Free Press that Bucholz sexually harassed her during a 2010 gubernatorial campaign around the Lansing area.
According to a March 25 university press release, a "faculty member" is being investigated for his connection with Vanguard and Bucholz. The university has not officially named either individual.
On March 24, five minutes into class, Journalism Department Chair William Dailey announced in an email to students in Steve Coon’s reporting class that they had the day off. Dailey also said Coon, was placed “on leave."
Coon was listed on Vanguard's website as a consultant. The site has since been taken down.
Mariah Prowoznik, a 2015 CMU graduate, worked at Vanguard from April 2018 until Oct. 2019. She was referred to Vanguard by Coon, who told her he would "put in a good word with the CEO," she said.
Sarah Leach, president of the student media board, confirmed Student Media Advisor Dave Clark is being investigated for potentially being aware of the situation. Leach is overseeing student journalists until the Clark investigation is complete.
After former employees, including Central Michigan University students and recent graduates, came forth regarding the toxic work environment and sexual harassment at Vanguard, CMU President Bob Davies released a statement to campus about the situation March 26.
"I have read the testimonies and accounts from our students and alumni ... The stories of what they endured as employees — the degrading and horrible acts they experienced — deeply sadden me, and I extend my sincere apologies to each of them," Davies said in his statement. "I am also angry to learn that this situation may have been ongoing for quite some time."
Central Michigan Life reached out to Vanguard Public Affairs and Steve Coon for comment on this story.
CM Life is working to gather and verify more information.