University of Louisville employee files whistle-blower lawsuit against Ramsey
A University of Louisville employee claims university President Ramsey and other administrators worked to “derail and interfere with” his duties investigating and calling attention to conflicts of interest, according to a whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Ramsey and the university on Monday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A University of Louisville employee claims university President James Ramsey and other administrators worked to “derail and interfere with” his duties investigating and calling attention to conflicts of interest, according to a whistle-blower lawsuit filed against Ramsey and the university on Monday.
Robin Wilcox, who is an institutional compliance officer in the university’s audit department, plans to leave the job effective March 11, according to a Feb. 26 resignation letter that was attached to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says Wilcox resigned because he was unable to do his job and believed his position was soon to be eliminated after being told by unnamed superiors in December that he was “too passionate” about audit and compliance issues.
The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson Circuit Court on Monday afternoon, according to Wilcox's attorney Laurie Goetz Kemp of Kightlinger & Gray LLP.
University spokesman John Karman said Monday evening that U of L officials have not seen the lawsuit and the university typically does not comment on litigation.
Among a number of other claims in his 17-page complaint, Wilcox said Ramsey was untruthful in a December letter to the university community regarding allegations of potential misconduct involving university vice presidents David Dunn and Priscilla Hancock.
Ramsey said in a Dec. 9 university-wide letter that Dunn and Hancock had been placed on leave after potential misconduct allegations were “were brought to the university’s attention in the summer of 2014.”
But according to Wilcox’s lawsuit, the “potential fiscal misconduct concerns” were brought to Ramsey and former Provost Shirley Willihnganz’s attention in December 2012.
Wilcox says in the lawsuit that he began investigating potential conflicts of interest involving in Dunn and Hancock’s interests in a company called Health DataStream in August 2012.
Willihnganz was among a handful of officials who participated in a December 2012 meeting with Wilcox in which “major areas of concern” about the situation were discussed, Wilcox claims.
In that meeting, Willihnganz told Wilcox that the issues were “above your pay grade” and that “University Leadership believes we are ‘too risk adverse’ regarding compliance and legal processes.”
Wilcox claims he was later forwarded an email in which Willihnganz said she had shared with Ramsey a number of issues raised by Wilcox, former University Counsel Angela Koshewa and a third unnamed official – presumably about the Dunn matter, though the complaint is not explicit.
On Dec. 10, after reading Ramsey’s Dec. 8 letter to the community about Dunn and Hancock, Wilcox said he told his boss, Dave Barker, U of L’s associate vice president for audit services and institutional compliance, that they had an obligation to tell U of L’s Board of Trustees that Ramsey was untruthful about the timeline of the Dunn and Hancock matter.
But Barker “indicated no action should be taken,” according to the suit.
Wilcox further describes the incident in the Feb. 26 resignation letter.
“When I approached the administration on December 10, 2015 with documented falsehoods presented by the University’s highest officer, something I was obligated to bring forth as the Constitutional Compliance Officer, I was not only ignored; I was interrogated and my own integrity and work was questioned,” he said.
Wilcox says in 2013, Ramsey’s chief of staff Kathleen Smith told him in a meeting that his “COI (conflict of interest) process” had caused a doctor to leave the university and that U of L “cannot stand to lose” Dunn, the university’s executive vice president for health affairs, over concerns about his interests in Health DataStream.
In that same meeting, Ramsey told Wilcox that a draft memo Wilcox had prepared regarding “institutional conflicts of interest” related to Advanced Cancer Therapeutics and Ramsey’s seat on that company’s board “questioned his (Ramsey’s) integrity,” according to the complaint.
Also in 2013, neither Dunn nor Hancock included anything about their interests in Health DataStream on their annual disclosure forms, but Dr. Russell Bessette, a former health administrator under Dunn, did disclose his interest in the company, according to the lawsuit.
The university’s Conflict Review Board, which Wilcox chaired, met in April 2013 to discuss a plan to manage Bessette’s potential conflict with Health DataStream, Wilcox claims.
But Willihnganz and Dr. Bill Pierce, the university’s vice president for research, then requested that the conflict board await further instruction before taking any action regarding Bessette – but no instruction ever came, according to the suit.
While Wilcox has worked at U of L since 2006, he began to witness a “demeanor of unethical behavior becoming the operating norm” starting in 2012, he wrote in the Feb. 26 letter.
When new members of the “administrative team” joined in early 2015, he wrote, “the tone worsened and my efforts to produce high quality, ethically driven work became more and more difficult.” Wilcox does not identify those employees.
WDRB.com reporter Marcus Green contributed. Copyright 2016 WDRB News. All rights reserved.