SU Board attorney fires back after former high-ranking employee files termination lawsuit

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - According to documents filed with the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court, Winston DeCuir, Jr., attorney for the Southern University Board of Supervisors has submitted an opposition to the lawsuit filed by former vice chancellor for student affairs, Dr. Brandon Dumas.

In the document, DeCuir defends the Board's actions and calls Dumas's allegations that the school violated constitutional rights and its own bylaws false.

"These actions clearly followed the University's bylaws and the afforded Plaintiff [Dumas] all due process required under the law," the document reads.

DeCuir also says Dumas was given a letter dated July 8, 2017, notifying him that his employment as an unclassified at-will employee would be terminated without cause and maintains policy was not violated.

The filing reveals Dumas requested a hearing before the Board regarding his termination just two days before its scheduled meeting on July 21, 2017.

Attorneys for Dumas filed the lawsuit last week on Thursday, August 10 which happens to be the day the termination of the head of Student Affairs would take effect.

The lawsuit alleges Dumas was fired without final approval by the Board of Supervisors. The Board did vote July 21, 2017 to uphold System President Ray Belton's decision to terminate the vice chancellor but in the lawsuit attorneys cite Southern University bylaws that say all unclassified employees "hold their positions at the pleasure of the Board" which attorneys say means unclassified employees cannot be fired solely by the System President.

Instead, the lawsuit claims Belton could only recommend the firing of Dumas but the Board would have to make the final decision.

According to the lawsuit Board members voted to "uphold the president's decision" at that July meeting rather than vote to "act on or approve the president's recommendation". In doing so, attorneys say the Board essentially violated its own policies and procedures for terminating high-ranking employees.

The lawsuit asks for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent the Board from terminating his employment. The lawsuit also says Dumas's constitutional rights were violated and that he is entitled to injunctive relief.

At a meeting Friday, July 21, the Southern University Board of Supervisors decided to uphold the termination of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at a termination hearing.

Southern University released the following statement on Dumas on July 20:

Dr. Brandon Dumas was given a termination notice with an effective date of August 10, 2017. He remains on leave until that time. Dr. Dumas has requested to appeal the notice with the SU Board of Supervisors. The appeal request will be considered at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 21, 2017. The University has no further comments on this personnel matter.

Once the meeting concluded, school officials still would not confirm why Dumas was fired or if the decision had anything to do with their investigation into a
leaked video that allegedly involved a University employee and a student.

The only bit of information that was discussed at the start of the hearing was that during the course of the investigation, the woman who appeared in the video was interviewed. School officials said that the woman claimed during the interview that the person in the video with her was not a university employee.

In order to not violate privacy laws, the rest of Dumas's testimony happened behind closed doors in executive session with his attorneys and board members. Whatever was said; however, was ultimately not enough to sway the majority of those board members to grant an appeal to his termination.

"The president felt that he needed to make a change in his cabinet and we as a board decided to support his decision," said Board chair Ann Smith.
WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Smith about the vote, asking if she was surprised by the outcome, which came down to the wire after a marathon of a meeting.

"Again, no comment," Smith said.

While the decision is final, the university still is not releasing much else and it seems that whatever the reason for now the school is just unwilling to discuss.

In June, school leaders did acknowledge a sex tape had been leaked allegedly involving an employee and a student, but to this day, they have never publicly identified either of the people seen in the video and WAFB has been unable to confirm their identities as well. The same week that news came of the tape being leaked, the university suspended Dumas.

The next time the Board could vote on Belton's recommendation to fire Dumas is at its regular meeting on August 18.

Not long after the video surfaced, the school learned it was placed on warning by its accrediting agency, SACS-COC. According to the university website, Dumas serves on the school's SACS reaffirmation committee.

WAFB's Scottie Hunter reached out to Southern University Wednesday for comment regarding the attorney's filing; however, the university said he will not be available for comment on ongoing litigation.

You can read the termination letter sent to Dumas, as well as the full memorandum in opposition to the lawsuit here:

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