INDIANAPOLIS — 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.
Thomas Minar used a dating app called Grindr to exchange messages with an undercover police officer whom he understood to be a minor, according to a criminal complaint filed Jan. 15 in a Door County, Wisconsin, circuit court.
The officer identified himself as Tyler and originally told Minar he contacted him by accident and was too young. Minar responded with “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 — for use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime, child enticement and expose a child to harmful materials and narrations.
On Jan. 14, 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 its longtime athletic director, Kerry Prather, would take over as acting president.
Minar was arrested Jan. 6, more than a week before the campus learned of the allegations.
The complaint said after exchanging messages with an undercover police officer whom he understood to be a minor named Tyler, he 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 McDonald's, 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. He 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.”
The former college administrator told the officer the messages to Tyler were simply a “fantasy chat” and that he would draw the line between sending sexually explicit messages to the supposed teen 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 planning to leave Franklin College at the end of the current academic year, was released the day after his arrest on a $7,500 bond.
When asked if Minar’s college computer had been seized by 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.
Prather sent a statement to the Franklin community Jan. 15 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.”
Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.