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Investigator: Former journalism department head at Wayne State acted inappropriately toward students

Jack Lessenberry resigned from university after 25 years

Jack Lessenberry (WDIV)

DETROIT – An independent investigator said the former head of the journalism department at Wayne State University acted inappropriately toward students, the school said.

Jack Lessenberry was accused of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior toward students. The allegations surfaced in May when Deadline Detroit published a story, "Jack Lessenberry's Long History of Questionable Behavior with Women."

The university asked Tara Mahoney, a private attorney, to investigate the allegations against Lessenberry. She found that Lessenberry violated Wayne State's non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies, according to the university.

Lessenberry was with the university for 25 years and served as the head of the journalism department. He resigned from Wayne State on June 22 while the investigation was underway, school officials said.

"There has been one complaint we received," Linda Galante, an associate general counsel for the university, told Local 4 in May. "It was actually March of this year. A young lady came forward and her complaint related to an allegation of something that occurred in 2005. We did our initial assessment which is the first step in an investigation, then interviewed that person and determined it did not fall under umbrella of sexual misconduct."

Here is the full statement from Wayne State following Mahoney's investigation:

"Wayne State University is now in receipt of the final report of Ms. Tara Mahoney, a private attorney specializing in this area, who Wayne State retained to do an independent investigation into allegations made about Jack Lessenberry following an article published by Deadline Detroit. Thank you for coming forward to speak with/meet with her.

"Ms. Mahoney has done a very thorough investigation. Mr. Lessenberry was given the opportunity to participate and chose not to do so. Based upon Ms. Mahoney’s factual findings, she reached the conclusion that Mr. Lessenberry’s actions violated Wayne State University non-discrimination and sexual harassment policies. Wayne State accepts her findings.

"While Wayne State views these findings as a sufficient basis for termination, Mr. Lessenberry resigned from WSU effective June 22, 2018, while the investigation was still underway. 

"We deeply regret that Wayne State students have been subjected to this type of inappropriate behavior, and we hope this brings some closure to those students who were mistreated by Mr. Lessenberry.

"If you are currently a student at Wayne State, please know that you can obtain counseling support through our Office of Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS). Their services are free to registered students. They can be reached at 313-577-3398. For those who are no longer current students, if you wish, I can provide you with a list of resources in the Detroit Metropolitan area.

"Again, thank you for coming forward and for your cooperation in this investigation."