Consultant admits to plagiarizing Air Force colonel’s paper on leadership

Thomas Mattus

A consultant has admitted to plagiarizing a U.S. Air Force officer in a paper on leadership, and says his company is now in jeopardy of losing top clients, including Fortune 100 companies.

On Tuesday, we reported allegations that Thomas Mattus, president of the project management consulting firm Successful Strategies International (SSI), plagiarized in a 2012 paper he wrote for a conference run by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The article he plagiarized, on the topic of “transformational leadership,” was written in 2001 by Col. Mark Homrig, now a section chief at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Mattus, who had not previously replied to our request for comment, has now admitted to copying Homrig’s article. He told us:

I had to get in front of a couple hundred people and give a powerpoint presentation. I researched a topic and I had to do this white paper. Being sloppy, I just copied and pasted [Homrig’s] article. You can copy and paste it but you should give someone credit.

When we asked Mattus why he didn’t initially respond to us, he said:

Because I didn’t want to deal with you.

Mattus told us that PMI has suspended SSI as a “registered education provider” (REP). PMI is a professional association for project managers and provides credentialing for the profession. When we contacted PMI to ask about the suspension, a representative told us:

That’s not something I can verify.

But according to a Dec. 6, 2017 email from PMI’s Gregg Shaffer, provided by Mattus:

Successful Strategies Inc. will be terminated from the R.E.P. Program effective immediately, and will not be eligible to re-apply in the future.

In the email, Shaffer noted that the plagiarized paper violated both the REP agreement and the 2012 conference’s author agreement. If SSI is not part of the REP program, it will no longer be able to offer courses to satisfy PMI’s continuing certification requirements. 

The suspension could cost SSI important clients, which Mattus said includes two of the 10 largest contractors for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). A 2008 lawsuit between SSI and an ex-employee revealed that Johnson & Johnson and Ingram Micro, both Fortune 100 companies, have been clients.

Mattus told us he hoped his employees would avoid suffering for his mistake:

I did something wrong, NOT SSI. Yet PMI is suspending the company forever from being an Registered Education Provider. PMI should punish or fine me not the company…

Mattus said he has reached out to Homrig to secure permission to use the article, which he said he hopes will help overturn the suspension.

Mattus provided us with a letter he sent Homrig dated Dec. 8,  2017 — after we began investigating the allegations raised to PMI by Brenda Oppermann, a researcher at the U.S. Naval War College. In the letter to Homrig, Mattus wrote:

By suspending SSI as an REP we stand to lose valuable Fortune 100 customers including two of the top ten DOD contractors. Needless to say losing this designation will jeopardize the future of SSI and over 16 people who work for the company.

PMI will revoke the termination if the original author of the plagiarized article grants both PMI and me permission to use it.

Mattus also forwarded us a Dec. 11 email to Shaffer from a Gmail account assigned to a “Mark Homrig,” which states:

Mr. Thomas Mattus wrote to me asking that I intercede on his behalf to grant both PMI and him permission to use my article, “Transformational Leadership.”

I am greatly humbled that two such prestigious organizations desire to continue using my work…I now desire that whoever wishes to use my article to further the discourse on transformational leadership has my permission to use it.

We tried to verify this email account belongs to the real Mark Homrig by emailing it ourselves, asking for a response via an institutional email address, but have not yet received a reply.

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3 thoughts on “Consultant admits to plagiarizing Air Force colonel’s paper on leadership”

  1. “Mr. Thomas Mattus wrote to me asking that I intercede on his behalf to grant both PMI and him permission to use my article….. I am greatly humbled that two such prestigious organizations desire to continue using my work….”

    PMI is definitely an organization, “prestigious” or not. Is “him” (i.e., Thomas Mattus) also an organization?

    1. I presume that, as “president of the project management consulting firm Successful Strategies International”, the person Mr. Mattus takes on (in Colonel Homrig’s eyes) the aura of the organization he Leads.

  2. There should be no more case to forward if the Author actually granted the organization an express permission to continue with his Article if they so desire. But I still suggest that permission should be sought from Authors before any organization or individual or group of individuals could use their Articles for any reason best known to them to avoid future problems.

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