Professor placed on leave pending FBI investigation

Monica Kast

A civil engineering professor was placed on unpaid leave pending an investigation into misuse of funds and investigation by the FBI, WKU announced Thursday, Oct. 26.

Matthew Dettman, a professor in the civil engineering program, was placed on unpaid leave “pending the results of an investigation into the possible misuse of funds,” according to a statement from WKU. The statement also said “based on preliminary findings,” WKU has been in contact with law enforcement officials and the FBI.

On Monday, Oct. 23, the College Heights Herald requested Dettman’s employment documents from WKU.

According to those records, Dettman was placed on an “unpaid leave of absence” Oct. 12.

In an email to Dettman on Oct. 24, David Lee, provost and vice president for academic affairs, notified Dettman he would be removed from the James D. Scott Professorship in Civil Engineering, “effective immediately.” Lee also wrote that President Timothy Caboni had approved Dettman’s removal from the position.

The James D. Scott Professorship in Civil Engineering is an endowed professor position in the Department of Engineering. According to Dettman’s employment records, he was the first faculty member at WKU to be selected for this position and has held this position since 2001. The Scott Professorship included a monthly stipend of $300 as part of the endowment, according to Scott’s employment records.

Dettman was also the faculty adviser for the WKU concrete canoe team, a team for civil engineering students who build and compete in canoes made of concrete. Dettman was the adviser for the concrete canoe team since at least 2003, according to Herald archives.

Dettman was hired at WKU in 1992 as an assistant professor in the civil engineering technology program, according to a memorandum from former WKU president Thomas Meredith. In 1997, he was promoted to the rank of associate professor and in 1998, Dettman was granted tenure, according to employment documents.

In 2006, Dettman was promoted to the rank of professor, according to employment documents.

In 2014, when a sinkhole opened up at the Corvette Museum, Dettman was one of several professors who helped “develop a plan for how to proceed and how to assemble a team to remove the Corvettes and repair the damage,” according to a release from WKU.

Dettman was contacted for comment but said he was unable to comment at this time.

Stacy Wilson, director of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication. Regina Allen, assistant director of the Office of Sponsored Programs, said she had “no comment” on grants Dettman may have received.

In the statement released last week, administrators said they “have no additional information to share and will not comment further on this matter until the federal investigation has concluded.”

Projects editor Emma Austin contributed reporting.

News editor Monica Kast can be reached at [email protected] and 270-745-6011. Follow her on Twitter at @monica_kast.