A leading wolf expert who filed a complaint against his employer - Washington State University - for infringing on his academic freedom, will break ties with the university in exchange for a lump sum payment, representatives for the professor and WSU said Tuesday.
Robert Wielgus, former director of WSU's Carnivore Conservation Lab, agreed to resign at the end of the semester and release all claims and employment rights in exchange for two payments totaling $300,000 from the state's insurance liability account.
The Carnivore Conservation Laboratory will also close its doors, Wielgus said in a news release issued by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a national nonprofit alliance of state and federal resource professionals representing Wielgus in his complaint.
Wielgus expressed his disappointment in an email to the Daily News.
"It's a shame that a world-class research lab at (WSU) was shut down after 21 years due to political interference and university acquiescence," Wielgus wrote.
The settlement wraps up a years-long drama between Wielgus and the university that sparked after Wielgus published findings indicating the killing of wolves increases livestock depredation. When Wielgus made claims to The Seattle Times that a Washington cattle rancher purposefully lured his livestock directly on top of a wolves' den site, "refused to radio-collar his cattle to help predict and avoid interactions with radio-collared wolves" and that there had been no documented "cattle kills among producers who are participating in research studies and very few among producers using Fish and Wildlife's protocol," WSU and the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resources Sciences promptly disavowed Wielgus's claim and apologized to the public in a news release issued Aug. 31, 2016.
Wielgus said the university feared some conservative lawmakers would withhold funding for the new Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine based on the research. He was later accused by the university of misusing state resources by using his WSU email for lobbying activities, an accusation he was cleared of, though there was apparently evidence found that his use of email may have been a misuse of state resources in "regard to the content of the messaging and repeated recommendations from management to use private resources related to the activity in questions."
The settlement between Wielgus and WSU means neither party acknowledges any wrongdoing and both parties will sever their relationship on mutually acceptable terms, Vice President for Marketing and Communication Phil Wieler said in an email Tuesday.
But Wielgus has previously made known his distaste for the university and its actions, telling the Daily News in an interview earlier this year he just wanted a severance package and to be free from WSU's "tyranny." He said the whole ordeal had affected his health, damaged his reputation and led at least half a dozen WSU employees to be "terrified" of retaliation by the university.
PEER Staff Counsel Adam Carlesco called WSU "far from an ivory tower" in a news release Tuesday, accusing the university of allowing lobbyists and legislators to make academic decisions and dictate results of research.
"WSU administrators have repeatedly shown their willingness to obstruct scientific research that discomfits agricultural interests," Carlesco said.
Taylor Nadauld can be reached at (208) 883-4630, by email to email@example.com and on Twitter @tnadauldarg.