LYNCHBURG — A financial consulting firm hired by Liberty University to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by former president Jerry Falwell Jr. has launched a website for employees to confidentially report evidence of misconduct.
The launch of the website, https://lu.integrityline.org, represents the first public phase of an independent and wide-ranging investigation by Baker Tilly US into Falwell’s tenure as president. Liberty’s board retained the Chicago-based firm in late August after Falwell resigned following a string of scandals, including allegations of self-dealing.
At the time, the board said it was committed to conducting a thorough investigation into “all facets” of the university’s operations under Falwell, including but not limited to financial, real estate and legal matters.
The reporting site, launched Tuesday evening, asks employees, contractors and business affiliates to voluntarily report any information that suggests current or former members of Liberty’s leadership engaged in conduct that may have been illegal, unethical or improper in the context of running a nonprofit organization.
The site lists kickbacks, embezzlement, misuse of university funds and other actions as examples of potential misconduct. Individuals have until Dec. 20 to submit a report.
“The Liberty Board and the independent investigative team are encouraging anyone with pertinent information to not delay in submitting a report through the platform,” the university said in a statement Tuesday.
For much of the last year, Falwell has been dogged by accusations that he leveraged the university’s business interests to enrich himself, family members and friends.
Falwell, who did not return a request for comment Wednesday, has repeatedly denied allegations of wrongdoing. He told the news outlet Reuters last month that he welcomed an investigation into his 13-year tenure as president.
Save71, a group of four former Liberty students who had lobbied the school to fire Falwell, expressed skepticism at the investigation’s purported independence Tuesday. The group suggested that the investigation’s focus on Falwell may obscure the board’s own wrongdoing.
“The firm is working on behalf of LU’s board of trustees,” the group said on Twitter. “There is no guarantee that it will investigate each claim that points to problems. But there IS a guarantee that when the investigation is over, the board will claim it exonerates them and no further action is needed.”
According to Baker Tilly investigators, Liberty employees will not have access to the information submitted through the website, which is hosted on an encrypted server by a third party. Individuals also have the option of submitting an anonymous report.
Instructions on the site note the reporting form should not be used to report allegations of employment discrimination or harassment, health and safety complaints and Title IX violations.
“Since the platform is independent of Liberty University, it is not a substitute for employees or students to report complaints of misconduct where the University has an established complaint procedure,” the university said.
Liberty said the investigation has been active since early September. In its statement Tuesday, the university revealed for the first time that it had tapped Baker Tilly, an accounting and advisory firm, to direct the inquiry.
Investigators for the firm have already collected documents and conducted interviews, but it is unclear exactly who or how many people have been interviewed. University officials have not said when the investigation is expected to conclude.