Whitaker has been accused of plagiarism in various books he has written while a professor at ASU. Several months ago, he agreed to resign his tenured position with the university on May 17, 2017.
An arbitrator has found in favor of a controversial Arizona State University professor in his battle with the city of Phoenix over a training program for police officers.
The city sued Matthew C. Whitaker for breach of contract, fraud and negligent misrepresentation after he developed a training program for Phoenix police in 2015 that contained materials used by the Chicago Police Department.
The arbitrator found in favor of Whitaker on all counts, according to documents filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Whitaker faced accusations of plagiarism twice previously for work he published while a professor at ASU. Several months ago, he agreed to resign his tenured position with the university on May 17, 2017.
Whitaker’s attorney, Jeffrey Silence, said he hopes the city does the right thing and “leaves Dr. Whitaker alone.”
The city sued Whitaker’s company, the Whitaker Group, for $21,900, which represents the time Whitaker spent preparing for the presentation. The arbitrator’s decision, if it stands, would mean the company doesn’t have to return the money and also would receive reimbursement for attorneys’ fees. That amount has not yet been determined.
“Dr. Whitaker did not plagiarize anything. Dr. Whitaker provided quality training for a reasonable price and yet the city sued him. That’s just wrong,” Silence said.
Whitaker’s company secured a $268,800 contract in 2015 to provide cultural-awareness training for Phoenix police. Whitaker later decided to terminate his contract with the city after he was demoted at ASU amid allegations that one of his books contained plagiarized material.
Regarding the city’s lawsuit, the arbitrator wrote that there was no evidence Whitaker was hiding the fact that the training materials came from the Chicago Police Department, though there was evidence to show the materials “may not have been sufficiently credited” to Chicago police.
The arbitrator noted that the presentation prepared for Phoenix police contained various anecdotes that went beyond what was in the Chicago police materials.
“Witnesses testified to the fact that Whitaker spent much time organizing, preparing for, and rehearsing for the training,” arbitrator Sarah L. Jones wrote in her decision.
Julie Watters, a spokeswoman for the city of Phoenix, said that the city is “aware of the arbitrator’s opinion and our legal team is currently assessing all of our options.”
Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who led the investigation into Whitaker’s training program, said the city should continue the fight and reject the arbitrator’s decision, adding that taxpayers were “ripped off.”
“He took someone else’s work, called it his own and then billed the city,” DiCiccio said.
DiCiccio’s August 2015 investigation concluded that 52 of the 84 PowerPoint slides created for Phoenix police training were “exact copies or slides with just minor change” from Chicago police materials. The city demanded a refund of $21,900 from Whitaker’s company.
The Whitaker Group responded in a statement at the time, saying any allegation that the company plagiarized or improperly used the Chicago police material was “patently false.”
In 2011, 10 of Whitaker’s colleagues at ASU reported concerns about plagiarism in some of his work. A university committee investigated the matter and determined he had not committed “systematic or substantial plagiarism.”
In 2015, an ASU-commissioned investigation found plagiarism in his book, “Peace Be Still: Modern Black America From World War II to Barack Obama.” That June, ASU demoted Whitaker from professor and director to associate professor and co-director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy following the second incident.
Two months later, ASU placed Whitaker on leave while the university reviewed his conduct.
The university announced in January 2016 that Whitaker agreed to resign at the end of the spring 2017 term but would continue to be paid more than $200,000 in salary.
ASU officials confirmed Whitaker is still an associate professor, and continues to be on the payroll until May 17. They declined to give details on his job duties.
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