Update on the Teacher Fired by Gonzaga Under Mysterious Circumstances

Though no one will talk about it, a new letter hints Mike Davis will sue the school.

By: Carol Ross Joynt

Sometimes the process of trying to get the story becomes the story. A good case in point is the story of Mike Davis, the popular and veteran teacher Gonzaga College High School, who was fired under mysterious circumstances back in February. At the time, Gonzaga’s president, Reverend Stephen Planning, informed the school community that Davis was fired because he “fail[ed] to maintain expected professional boundaries between teacher and student.” The vague insinuations created a firestorm of controversy among Davis’s supporters, including students and parents. Davis’s friend and lawyer at the time, Martin Oliverio, said the wording “implies that there was inappropriate sexual or physical conduct between Mike and a student.”

But no one on either side would say what happened or reveal the identity of Davis’s accuser, who is now in his twenties. We talked to school officials, parents, students, and family members, none of whom would go on the record with the nature of the charges. What we could fairly thread together from these conversations was that whatever happened occurred several years ago and involved a student with whom Davis had some kind of relationship. His supporters insist the relationship was appropriate. The school says otherwise. And then the story hits a wall.

Over the weekend we received a copy of a letter written by Oliverio and distributed to Davis’s supporters on Facebook and elsewhere. It’s an update on the “unfair” way Gonzaga “destroyed” Davis’s 25-year career. But there’s also some news. Oliverio says that Davis recently hired Peter Cohen, a Washington lawyer who specializes in personnel disputes and unfair employment practices, and hints strongly that Davis will sue Gonzaga. “Mike and his wife, Devon, sadly concluded there was no other way to salvage Mike’s reputation and their destroyed lives than through legal action. I’m sure you can see why they feel Mike has no choice but to seek justice.”

Logically, we called Mike Davis at home to talk to him about this, but while friendly he refused to talk, either on or off the record. “There is no such thing as off the record,” he said, and referred me to his public relations representative. We also tried to reach Cohen and Oliverio, but could only leave messages. We put in a call to Gonzaga’s lawyer, Jack Vardaman, at Williams & Connolly and sent an e-mail to Father Planning at the school. No responses, as yet. The only other person we did talk to was Davis’s public relations man, who said he would look into our question about whether Davis was, in fact, in the process of suing Gonzaga.

On a side note, we heard that Davis’s son was accepted at Gonzaga for freshman year and that Davis and his wife, regardless of the dispute with the school, planned to send him there.

In his letter, Oliverio wrote, “It is a tragedy that his matter is now entering a more confrontational and unpleasant phase. Mike has a family to support. . . . He needs to press his case now.” The letter includes an address for a Michael T. Davis Legal Expense Trust, set up with the Bank of Georgetown. “No contribution is too small for this effort,” Oliverio’s letter said.

As this story continues on its circuitous path, we will update as warranted.