Former Texas State University police chief accuses institution of retaliation, violations of the Clery Act

Investigations

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — Laurie Clouse resigned her position as chief of the Texas State University Police Department in June, following an investigation that indicated she retaliated against a complaining employee. In her first interview since leaving, Clouse has defended her tenure, refuted the investigation’s findings, and said the university retaliated against her for whistleblowing and raising concerns about ongoing violations of the Clery Act, which requires public reporting of campus crimes.

Texas State hired law firm Husch Blackwell LLC to investigate grievances filed against Clouse in January of 2021. The firm produced an investigation report on June 18 recommending Texas State find Clouse responsible for retaliating against an employee. Clouse resigned her post the next day, according to Texas State and media reports.

When Texas State officials announced Clouse’s resignation, they made no mention of the allegations against her, the investigation or the law firm’s report, according to reporting by the University Star. The university thanked Clouse for her “tremendous service” and improvements to Clery Act Compliance, training and diversity, according to a letter reported by Texas Tribune,.

Texas State did not send the investigation report to KXAN until Friday, following months of delay and a ruling by the Office of Attorney General that certain portions must be released. The bulk of the report provided to KXAN has been redacted, including the names of employees and the person who originally filed a complaint against Clouse.

Clouse said she feels she was a whistleblower. When she began raising concerns within Texas State about possible Clery Act violations, the institution took action against her, she said.

“I was bringing to light violations that have potential severe consequences for the institution, and, as a result of me bringing those to the forefront, they made these findings against me that were damaging to me professionally,” Clouse said.

Clouse said she never spoke publicly about the investigation report or problems with the university previously, and she wasn’t going to until the university released the investigation report to the media and KXAN contacted her for comment.

“I’m going to defend my professional reputation because I do not have a history of this kind of behavior,  and this has not ever happened to me before,” Clouse said. “The only reason that I’m talking to you now is because they released a report that contains my name, and I have to be able to defend myself. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have spoken to anybody about this.”

Texas State officials said they fully investigate all complaints related to stalking and harassment. They would not comment on personnel matters but did say Clouse’s resignation was not related to Clery Act compliance.

The university said it did not retaliate against Clouse it disagrees with her statements.

Texas State said it recognized shortfalls in its Clery Act compliance in late 2018, has been improving it since then and now has one of the best Clery programs in the country. One of the reasons Texas State said it hired Clouse was for her Clery Act experience. The university has also hired two “nationally renown” campus safety firms and created and filled two positions to oversee Clery Act Compliance, according to the a statement.

You can read Texas State’s full response to KXAN’s questions here.

“Our guiding priorities at Texas State are the safety, security and well-being of our university community,” according to university’s statement.

Investigation report

At least one employee filed a grievance against Clouse in January accusing her of unprofessional conduct. The complainant alleged said Clouse had retaliated against him nearly every day since a complaint had been made, he had become “basically isolated,” and it was “very uncomfortable” being in the department, according to the investigation report.

Investigators laid out a timeline showing the employee complained about Clouse on Jan. 22 then filed a formal complaint and grievance regarding Clouse six days later Jan. 28.

Investigators said Clouse removed the complaining employee’s direct report on Jan. 27, then threatened to investigate the employee on Jan. 28 and put the employee on a performance improvement plan on Jan. 29.

The employee filed an additional “grievance supplement” on March 11, alleging continued retaliation by Clouse since the original complaint.

In her interview with KXAN, Clouse rejected and contradicted those findings. She said the university’s Human Resources Department approved the performance improvement plan, and it was not disciplinary.

She said the employee was only supervising employees because of the absence of another employee.

“I simply moved those employees back to me, but he maintained the span of control that was indicated in the organizational chart,” Clause said.

“Then the third thing was that I had threatened to conduct investigations on him. Well, as the chief of police, when someone is in violation of policy, it is my responsibility to either confirm the policy violations or to exonerate that employee.”

Clouse also said the finding of retaliation was fundamentally wrong because the employee experienced no harm.

During the probe, investigators conducted 33 interviews and meetings between mid-February and mid-May. They were also provided a copy of a secret recording of a conversation made by the complaining employee during a meeting with Clouse.

In response, Clouse told investigators the grievance made against her was “shocking,” and she was “dismayed” an employee had recorded her. She told investigators she did not ignore or refuse to speak with the complaining employee, and she issued a performance improvement plan as a tool to stop “insolent comments” among other reasons, according to the report.

Investigators said the evidence showed retaliation by Clouse.

“While some of the concerns articulated by Chief Clouse to justify taking these steps may be legitimate, ultimately, we believe these are mere pretexts for her actual retaliatory motivation,” according to the investigation report. “As such, the Investigators recommend a finding of responsible with respect to [the employee’s] complaint of retaliation stemming from these adverse employment actions.”

Clouse said she believes the investigation was retaliatory – Texas State’s response to issues she was raising with the institution’s compliance with the Clery Act and the school’s Title IX Office, which investigates claims of discrimination and sexual misconduct.

Clery Act violations?

Texas State has struggled with Clery Act issues in the past. In 2019, according to Texas Tribune, the university under-reported campus sexual assaults in 2016 and 2017, and the U.S. Department of Education opened a formal review of Texas State’s compliance with the law in November of 2019.

University of Oregon police chief Matthew Carmichael will take the helm of TSU's police department in January of 2022.
Former University of Oregon police chief Matthew Carmichael will take the helm of Texas State University police department in January of 2022. (Texas State University)

Clouse began her tenure at Texas State against that backdrop. The university hired her in February 2019. Clouse previously served in law enforcement for more than two decades, including stints with the Wichita Falls Police Department and more recently as a captain and chief of the University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth.

The Clery Act requires the university to publicly report campus crimes, and Texas State produces an annual report with that information.

At Texas State, Clouse said a complaint involving stalking and harassment — a possible criminal violation and related to Title IX — were reported and summarily dismissed without investigation by the university. Clouse said the Title IX office acknowledged receiving the complaint and said there was gender bias involved and it rose to the level of reporting, “but they did not investigate.”

“I believe that was in violation of Clery, and I spoke out about it. I met with the compliance officer, and I explained that I believed that this was in violation. I then talked to my direct supervisor and said that I believed that the institution was in violation and that I was very concerned because the institution was already under Department of Education investigation, which is public knowledge,” Clouse said.

Again, closer to the time of her departure, Clouse said she was aware of another instance in which the university did not properly investigate a situation and violated the Clery Act. She said she reported that incident to her supervisor as well. Clouse said she does not know the status of the Department of Education’s investigation.

Clouse said she has retired from law enforcement. Since her departure, UPD’s James Dixon has served as the chief. In November, Texas State announced it would bring on Matthew Carmichael, a police chief of the University of Oregon, as the chief in January 2022.

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