A former University of Oklahoma student alleges he was touched and kissed inappropriately by former university President David Boren on several occasions almost a decade ago when the man worked as a teaching aide for the onetime governor and senator.
The allegations by Jess Eddy, now 29, appear to be at the center of an investigation being conducted for the university by Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms, into whether Boren sexually harassed male subordinates. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has also opened an investigation.
Boren, now 77, has denied any inappropriate conduct in statements released by his attorneys, who have confirmed the Jones Day investigation. Boren was a Democratic governor in the 1970s before serving in the U.S. Senate for more than 15 years. He was OU president from 1994 until stepping down last year and has been married to his second wife for more than 40 years. He has denied requests to be interviewed, citing poor health.
Boren’s attorney, Clark Brewster, said Eddy’s newest account of his encounter with Boren, which he detailed in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press, contradicts previous statements he gave to Jones Day investigators and to Brewster. In those earlier statements, he said he was not aware of any inappropriate behavior.
Eddy’s latest allegations were first reported Tuesday by the online news site NonDoc.
“Mr. Eddy was carefully examined, asked about anything that he had ever witnessed or had seen or had experienced and not only said that didn’t occur, but he gave specific factual detail as to why it couldn’t have been true,” Brewster said.
Eddy acknowledged the discrepancy with his initial accounts and said he was untruthful in an effort to protect Boren.
“My initial instinct was to do what Boren wanted,” Eddy said. “I was under extreme duress.”
Eddy confirmed providing Brewster with a signed written statement dated March 14 in which he addressed allegations made against Boren.
“To the extent that any of these allegations are attributed to me, I would like to make perfectly clear that they are not true,” Eddy wrote.
Eddy also acknowledged calling Boren personally and asking for financial compensation after The Oklahoman first reported Boren was being investigated.
“I felt like a great wrong had been done to me, and I was looking for the path of least resistance out and some relief,” Eddy said. “I hope people can understand that this has just been a traumatic and deeply disturbing experience that’s required me to undergo a lot of deep thought and consideration about what the right thing to do is.”
Eddy said he decided to speak publicly about his encounters with Boren after he “started to realize the implications of what I was doing by concealing my truth.”
“Thinking that there might be others like me began to just haunt me,” he said.
Eddy said he came to know Boren after taking a political science course the president taught. Boren asked him to be his teaching aide the following semester, in the fall of 2010, when Eddy was 21.
That fall, he said, he accompanied Boren on a weekend fundraising-and-recruiting trip to Houston, where he flew on a private jet with Boren and attended a dinner with donors. He said he and Boren ended up in Boren’s hotel room, where the two of them drank alcohol and Boren made an unwanted sexual advance and touched him inappropriately before he left the room. Eddy declined to elaborate, saying the experience was too traumatic to discuss in detail.
The next morning, when a group of OU administrators picked him and Boren up at the hotel, OU’s former vice president of university development, Tripp Hall, a longtime Boren ally, placed his hand on Eddy’s inner thigh, touched his genital area and asked him if he had a good time, Eddy said. Hall, who left the university in November, did not respond to telephone and email messages seeking comment. He declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by NonDoc.
Eddy suggested Hall and other high-level administrators at OU were aware that Boren made unwanted advances toward male subordinates but did nothing to stop it.
Eddy cited several other incidents of unwanted touching and kissing by Boren that occurred in Boren’s office at OU in 2010 and 2011. He said he was not aware of any documents or other physical evidence that would corroborate his new account, but three people who knew Eddy in 2010 confirmed to the AP that he recounted to them a similar story about Boren’s sexual misconduct in the hotel room.
P.J. Wolbach, a friend of Eddy’s since high school, said he recalled hearing about the incident in the hotel room shortly after Eddy returned from the trip.
“He told us how they had drinks and were alone and how Boren got touchy with him in a sexual manner,” Wolbach recalled. “I remember those points with vivid detail.”
Eddy returned to work at OU’s Office of University Community in 2017 but left a year later after reaching a separation agreement with the university. He said he now works part-time for a law firm.
Boren’s attorney said a transcript Eddy provided him of his first interview with Jones Day attorneys in mid-February showed Eddy not only denied ever witnessing or experiencing any inappropriate conduct by Boren, but also gave specific factual details as to why the allegations could not have been true.
“And then you call up somebody and say you want money or you’re going to say something different?” Brewster said. “That does cause somewhat of a daunting incredibility is all I’m saying.”
Neither Brewster nor Eddy agreed to release a copy of the transcript to the AP.
Eddy said he met again with Jones Day investigators this week and provided a detailed account of his allegations against Boren. Jones Day did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
A spokeswoman for the Norman Police Department confirmed that Eddy also spoke with detectives this week to make a report, but they determined none of the alleged incidents happened within their jurisdiction. Eddy’s complaint was forwarded to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. An OSBI spokeswoman confirmed the agency is investigating allegations against both Boren and Hall.
Eddy declined to discuss whether he was considering legal action against Boren or OU. He would not comment on whether he had talked to OSBI investigators.
In a statement this week, the university acknowledged an ongoing investigation into a report of sexual misconduct school officials received in November 2018, but they have declined to discuss details.
“The goal of this investigation since the beginning has been to proceed with the highest degrees of professionalism, confidentiality and sincere concern for all parties involved, particularly potential victims,” the statement read. “While individuals may share their own personal accounting, it is critical that the university proceed deliberately, objectively and with respect for all the individuals involved.”