FRIDAY, March 26 — Both a current and former student of Central Michigan University said they informed two university employees of the alleged “creepy” behavior of TJ Bucholz, the owner of Vanguard Public Affairs who was accused by nearly a dozen women of sexual harassment.
And yesterday, both of those staff members — Steve Coon and Dave Clark — were placed on leave pending an investigation over whether they failed to adequately report those concerns.
Coon, a journalism professor at CMU, referred at least two women to employment opportunities with Vanguard while also serving as a senior consultant for the Lansing public relations firm. Clark, a student newspaper adviser, was also implicated and has also been placed on leave.
University officials refused to name the employees, but City Pulse was able to independently confirm their identities with two women. Inquiries from City Pulse to the university beginning on Monday directly resulted in their suspensions, a spokesman confirmed today.
According to the university, the recent allegations involving Bucholz “include a connection to a current CMU faculty member” and a “staff member that may have been aware of the situation.”
“We are taking immediate action to thoroughly investigate this matter, and both employees have been removed from all duties and any student contact,” said CMU Vice President John Veilleux.
One woman, a CMU alumna who declined to be named, said she was made aware of a position at Vanguard through Coon. She also provided Facebook messages to support the claim.
Kersten Kruse was also made aware of opportunities at Vanguard through Coon. She applied, but before taking the position had heard stories of poor workplace practices. She also said that she approached Coon with concerns, who only dismissed the stories as “rumors” spread by other political operatives in Lansing with the intent of harming Bucholz’ professional reputation.
Coon did not respond to a Facebook message from City Pulse seeking comment this week.
Despite having heard the rumors, Kruse said she decided to take the position as a part-time special assistant at Vanguard. Instead of working with clients as she was promised, she spent most of her time “answering the phone and calls from people wanting money from him.”
She left the firm after only “about three weeks,” Kruse said. She also said she was promised a $15 hourly wage, plus paid parking. She didn’t receive any pay until one month after she left.
The anonymous woman said she warned Clark that Bucholz was being “creepy,” and asked him not to send more women from CMU to Vanguard. Clark told City Pulse he had stopped referring women to Vanguard after that conversation. He also told Kruse in a Facebook chat this week that a woman had warned him and he hadn’t sent any students to Vanguard “in a long time.”
Kruse confirmed yesterday that she met with the university’s Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity as part of a Title IX investigation regarding Coon and the Vanguard referrals.
“The health and safety of each and every CMU student is our top priority, and the alleged incidents are in direct contrast to our university’s values. We will not tolerate behavior or practices that violate our commitment to integrity, respect and compassion, or that create an environment that is hostile or unwelcoming for any individual,” Veilleux’s statement continued.
“We offer our unconditional support for the individuals who have bravely come forward to tell their stories, and we encourage any current or former student impacted by these incidents to contact our Office of Civil Rights and Institutional Equity at 989-774-3253, or to reach out to any of our confidential support services for help.”