PRESIDENT OF AN INDIANA COLLEGE IS FIRED AFTER BEING CHARGED WITH ALLEGED SEX CRIMES
January 20, 2020
The former president of Franklin College in Indiana - who spent about seven years as a vice president at American University in Washington, D.C. - is facing charges related to child sex crimes after he allegedly attempted to meet a 15-year-old who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
The Indiana college fired Thomas Minar after school officials learned of his arrest in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, according to a statement from Franklin College. School leaders also announced plans to investigate Minar's conduct while he was president.
The Door County district attorney in Sturgeon Bay charged Minar with crimes related to enticing a child, using a computer to facilitate a sex crime and exposing a child to harmful material, according to a criminal complaint filed last week.
Minar was president of the private, liberal arts school for almost five years. Before that, he was at American University from 2008 to 2015, serving as vice president of development and alumni relations.
During his tenure at AU, Minar oversaw programs that increased attendance at alumni events and that doubled gifts and pledges to $32 million a year, according to a memo issued when Minar announced he was leaving the university.
When asked about Minar's time at AU, spokeswoman Kelly Alexander said the campus does not comment on personnel matters.
Charging documents related to his arrest in Wisconsin allege Minar used a dating app called Grindr to facilitate a meeting with a high schooler named "Tyler." The person with whom Minar was communicating was actually a Sturgeon Bay police officer, officials said.
Minar, who lives in Indiana, was in Sturgeon Bay taking care of his sick mother when he was arrested, said Brett Reetz, Minar's attorney.
"It was a sting operation," Reetz said. "In this case, there is no victim. He's not a predator."
School officials in a statement called the incident "deeply disturbing," and Franklin's Board of Trustees said "it was essential to act immediately and sever" Minar's relationship with the college.
"The safety of our campus community - especially our students - is always our first priority," said James V. Due, chair of the college's Board of Trustees. "We are deeply shocked and gravely concerned by the reported behavior of Dr. Minar that led to his arrest in Wisconsin, and we will continue to cooperate fully with authorities."
Minar allegedly sent sexual messages and photos of a partially nude man to the officer who posed as "Tyler," charging documents show. The criminal complaint said that while "Tyler's" Grindr profile indicated he was 19 years old, Minar allegedly acknowledged that "Tyler" in text messages said he was 15, according to the criminal complaint.
On the evening of Jan. 6, Minar asked "Tyler" to meet in person, and the officer agreed to meet the 56-year-old at a McDonald's. Minar was arrested at the restaurant.
The criminal complaint said Minar told officers the explicit messages were part of a "fantasy chat." He denied that anything sexual would have occurred if a 15-year-old boy had arrived at the restaurant, according to the criminal complaint. Reetz said Minar was trying to mentor someone he believed to be a teenager. Charging documents show Minar told police that young gay people need older role models.
"My guy has a profession where he cares very much about youth," Reetz said. "He understands the anxiety and stress, and how hard it is to come out and be gay. To that extent, the relationship was built on that concern."
Officials at Franklin College have launched an investigation into Minar's conduct while he was president, although the college's Board of Trustees has said it is not aware of other alleged incidents involving Minar and sex crimes.
Additional resources will be deployed on the small campus south of Indianapolis to make sure students can confidentially report incidents of inappropriate behavior, the college said in a statement.
Minar's arrest and dismissal follow his announcement in June that he planned to step down as president at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year. At the time of his announcement, Minar said he had accomplished all he intended during his tenure - including opening a new science center and launching master's degree programs in athletic training and physician assistant studies, the Daily Journal reported.
The college began a presidential search last year.
The Franklin Board of Trustees last week named Kerry Prather, the director of athletics and head men's basketball coach, as acting president. Prather began his career at Franklin in 1982 and has served in several roles, including acting vice president for administration and acting vice president for enrollment management.
"I assume this position with enthusiasm and confidence because I believe strongly in Franklin College and in the incredible people who do important, transformational work with our students every day," Prather said in a statement. "Franklin has a bright future, and I am excited to help ensure that the institution remains focused on the heart of its mission, our current and future students."
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