Court docs: Fired Franklin president arranged to meet officer posing as 15-year-old

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Franklin College’s former president arranged to meet what he thought was a 15-year old boy at a fast food restaurant in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, saying he was attracted to younger men, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday in a Door County, Wisconsin, circuit court.

Thomas Minar, who was terminated by Franklin over the weekend, used a dating app called Grindr to exchange messages with an undercover police officer who identified himself as a minor, the complaint says. The officer identified himself as Tyler and originally told Minar he contacted him on accident and was too young. Minar responded: “You’re not too young for me :)”

The Franklin College community is reeling over the news that its former president, who held the post for five years, is accused of sex crimes involving children—child enticement, using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime and child enticement.

On Tuesday, just one day after the campus learned via email that Minar had been fired after his arrest, the college’s board of trustees announced that Franklin’s longtime athletic director, Kerry Prather, would take over as acting president.

Minar was arrested on Jan. 6, in Sturgeon Bay, more than a week before the campus learned of the allegations.

The complaint said after exchanging messages with an undercover police officer he thought to be a minor named Tyler, Minar sent multiple pornographic pictures and other sexual messages through the Grindr app.

When Tyler asked if Minar could text him instead of messaging on the app, Minar said, “I’d love to but it would be bad if anyone found texts from me on your phone…”

They then agreed to meet at a nearby McDonalds, which is where Minar was greeted by an undercover police officer as well as other officers who placed him under arrest and took him to the Door County jail.

Minar agreed to an interview in which he subsequently told the officer that he met with the minor to be a “friend” and to be his “mentor,” but said, “Yes, I’m 56 years old. Yes, I’m attracted to young males.”

Minar told the officer the messages to Tyler was simply a “fantasy chat” and that he would draw the line between sending sexually explicit messages to Tyler and actually having sexual contact with him.

When asked about what officers might find on his phone, Minar said it is unlikely that officers would find child pornography, but if pornography was found, it would be from “pornography sites he cannot control.”

Minar, who was already planning to leave Franklin College at the end of the academic year, was released the day after his arrest on a $7,500 bond.

When asked if Minar’s college computer has been seized by any investigators, Deidra Baumgardner, Franklin’s communications director, said she did not know. In response to another question, Baumgardner said the college has not received any complaints from students about incidents on campus.

On Wednesday, one day after stepping into the acting president’s role, Prather sent a statement to the Franklin community saying that the faculty’s dedication to the students is what makes the college strong.

“They are about you, and that is really what makes Franklin distinctive,” he said, adding his goal is to keep the focus on students.

Prather, who has worked for the college since 1982, was the athletic director and head men’s basketball coach. He has been called upon in the past to fill other leadership roles at the school, including assistant dean of students, associate director of admissions, acting vice president for enrollment management and acting vice president for administration.

“Franklin has a bright future,” Prather said in his message, “and I am excited to help ensure that the institution remains focused on the heart of its mission, our current and future students.”

Minar was named Franklin’s 16th president on July 1, 2015. He announced in June that he would be leaving the school after the 2019-20 academic year, saying he had “accomplished the things” he came to the school to do.

He previously worked for seven years as vice president for development and alumni relations at American University in Washington, D.C.  He has more than 30 years of experience in institutional fundraising, alumni relations, external affairs and higher education administration at several academic institutions, including Roosevelt University in Chicago, the Chicago Theological Seminary and the University of Illinois.

Minar has a doctorate in political science from Northwestern, a master’s degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, and a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College.

Early in his career, he taught political science and management strategy at Northwestern University.

He is a native of the Chicago area and married to Dr. Frank Becker, an academic physician at Northwestern University and director of pulmonary and critical care at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital.

Franklin, founded in 1834, has an enrollment of just over 1,000 students and offers 50-plus majors in 24 academic disciplines. Its 207-acre campus is in Johnson County, about 25 miles south of downtown Indianapolis.

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