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Former ASU Athletics Employee Says He Was Fired For Urging Harassment Probe

An ex-employee of the ASU athletics department plans to sue the university for $1.5 million, claiming the university violated state and federal whistleblower protection laws. 

Former Associate Athletic Director David Cohen said the school retaliated against him because he reported sexual harassment by a major donor, Bart Wear.

According to Cohen’s notice of claim filed on February 17th, he had been urging superiors like Athletic Director Ray Anderson for months to take action on claims that Wear inappropriately touched Cohen’s wife Kathy Cohen and two other women. 

“This is another example of institutional failure to take these [types] of circumstances seriously and to react appropriately,” said Cohen’s attorney, Michael Perez. “When you’re duty-bound to protect a vulnerable population, and instead, what you do is you worry about the person who’s doing the harassing or you worry about the institution's reputation.”

ASU disputes any claims of wrongful termination. It says Cohen lost his job for not cooperating with a departmental reorganization. 

“Mr. Cohen’s failure to meet the professional standards of the Sun Devil Athletics department was the reason for his termination,” ASU said in a statement.

Cohen’s claim states his job evaluations were consistently positive.

The school did eventually hire the law firm Armstrong Teasdale to investigate the allegations against Wear and found he inappropriately touched three women. 

“The university cancelled the donor’s season tickets and informed him he is no longer welcome at university events, and he has otherwise dissociated himself from the university and related entities that support athletics,” the school’s statement said. 

One of the other women is Leslie Hurley, the wife of ASU basketball coach Bobby Hurley, according to Yahoo News.

When KJZZ asked for copies of the investigative report from Armstrong Teasdale, ASU Vice President of Media Relations Katie Paquet said in an email that “investigations are confidential and only shared with the university administration,” although the ASU’s determinations based on the probe are publicly releasable.

ASU did not disclose to Arizona’s Family how much money Wear had donated.

The school has to respond to Cohen’s claim by April 17.

“Our goal is to make it clear what happened, why it happened, to shed some light on the situation,” said Perez. “Because the only way the culture is going to change over there is if somebody holds ASU to task. And at this stage, that’s not happening.”

Bret Jaspers was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2017 to 2020.