Complaints against former OSU President F. King Alexander may be dismissed

F.+King+Alexander+was+president+of+Oregon+State+University+from+July+2020+until+he+resigned+in+April+2021.+He+resigned+from+his+position+after+an+investigation+into+Louisiana+State+Universitys+sexual+misconduct+during+the+years+in+which+he+was+president.

Courtesy of Oregon State University

F. King Alexander was president of Oregon State University from July 2020 until he resigned in April 2021. He resigned from his position after an investigation into Louisiana State University’s sexual misconduct during the years in which he was president.

Riley LeCocq and Kelsy Valentine

Clarification: Quotes in this article regarding Alexander seeking legal advice and Alexander withholding conflict of interest information have been updated to clarify attribution.

The Oregon Government Ethics Commission will likely dismiss complaints against F. King Alexander, former Oregon State University president, after commission staff recommended he be found in violation of two Oregon laws.

F. King Alexander resigned in March 2021 after only eight months of presidency at OSU following public outcry in response to his alleged mishandling of Title IX allegations at Louisiana State University as president between 2012 and 2013. 

In November 2020, an investigation was launched into the alleged rape and sexual misconduct happening within LSU’s athletic department. The investigation continued to find that multiple higher-up officials in the university were aware of the misconduct. 

When Alexander was asked for information after the initial investigation in which he was not named, a Louisiana Illuminator article from Oct. 22 states Alexander sought legal advice from OSU general counsel Rebecca Gose

According to Ronald Bersin, the executive director of OGEC, a citizen filed a complaint to the commission in response to an article that mentioned Gose had helped Alexander respond to LSU investigation questions. The citizen had been concerned that Alexander was taking advantage of university resources by using a university lawyer. 

“We opened the complaint in response to that citizen’s complaint and we did our preliminary review, which is just kind of a cursory overview,” Bersin said. “I was at the commission, [they] voted to put it into investigation at that point and then we did the full investigation, [and] we came out with the recommendation.”

The commission staff that made this recommendation—which Bersin said consisted of himself, the Department of Justice, an attorney and an investigator that works for Bersin—also created an investigative report that presents their findings. The investigation on Alexander begins on page 69.

Based on their findings, the commission staff recommended that Alexander be found in violation of two Oregon laws, the first being ORS 244.49, which prohibits the use of office for personal and financial gain. 

According to the report, Alexander allegedly violated this law by saving money through using a university lawyer rather than hiring his own lawyer. 

The report also states that Alexander broke another statute of Oregon law—ORS 244.120—which pertains to the withholding of any conflict of interest information. Using the university lawyer and not disclosing that fact to investigators, according to the report, would qualify as a conflict of interest.

On Oct. 22, the commission held a vote to make a final decision on whether or not Alexander would be found in violation of these two Oregon laws. The commission voting on this decision was a different group than the staff who put the report together and made the initial recommendation.

“[The report] is what we were presenting to the commission and then it’s up to the commission whether to vote something, either find a violation or dismiss the complaint,” Bersin said.

According to Bersin, however, OGEC is made up of nine commissioners, but due to losing some and being unable to replace them yet, the commission currently only has five members.

“The statute requires that anything the commission moves requires five votes so it requires five to have a quorum and five to move it forward,” Bersin said. “So, in this case, on Friday’s meeting with five commissioners, it would have taken a unanimous vote to either dismiss or find a violation.”

The vote in the commissioners meeting on Oct. 22 was 3-2, meaning the complaint was not dismissed nor was Alexander found to be in violation. 

Because the complaint against Alexander was not accepted or dismissed, Bersin said the commission has 180 days to complete their investigation.

“On the 181st day, it will statutorily dismiss, and that is on [Oct. 27],” Bersin said.

Until the 181st day on Oct. 27, the commissioners do have the option to conduct another vote on this issue, but according to Bersin, there is no indication that the commission plans to vote again on this matter.

This means the complaint against Alexander will likely be dismissed automatically on Oct. 27 per statute. 

OSU has since released a statement standing with the standards of the ethics committee. 

“Oregon State University appreciates the review of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, and the university continues to adhere to the highest standards of OSU’s code of ethics as well as those of the state of Oregon,” the statement said. 

At a recent meeting on Oct. 8, the OSU Board of Trustees revealed a plan to begin the search for a permanent president after Alexander’s resignation. The search is expected to start in November.