Judge dismisses much of whistle-blower lawsuit filed by ex-Unive - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Judge dismisses much of whistle-blower lawsuit filed by ex-University of Louisville employee

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University of Louisville President James Ramsey University of Louisville President James Ramsey

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) --  A Jefferson County judge has dismissed a substantial portion of a lawsuit filed by a former University of Louisville compliance officer who alleges the university and President James Ramsey effectively forced him to quit for reporting wrongdoing.

Shorting after submitting his resignation in late February, Robin Wilcox sued the university and Ramsey, alleging administrators worked to “derail and interfere with” his duties investigating and calling attention to conflicts of interest.

Wilcox, a former institutional compliance officer within U of L’s audit department, claims protection under Kentucky’s Whistleblower Act, which says public employees should be not punished for reporting wrongdoing.

In a July 8 opinion, Jefferson County Circuit Judge James Shake threw out many of Wilcox’s claims and cast doubt on some of the claims he allowed to survive.

While Shake did not grant U of L’s request to dismiss the entire lawsuit, he threw out claims against Ramsey as an individual for violating the whistle-blower law and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. He also threw out Wilcox’s claim alleging “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Shake allowed Wilcox’s whistle-blower claim against the university to continue, but the judge called the link Wilcox attempts to draw between his conduct and the university’s alleged plan to replace him “weak at this stage of the litigation.”

Wilcox claims that, after assisting state and federal authorities in an investigation involving ownership by university employees in a company called Health DataStream, he learned of a draft job description which he interpreted as an attack on his position, according to Shake’s opinion.

Health DataStream is allegedly at the center of a federal law enforcement investigation that caused the university to place Dr. David Dunn, executive vice president of health affairs, on administrative leave in December.

Shake also allowed Wilcox’s claim of “official misconduct” against Ramsey to continue, though he called the allegations “vague.”

Wilcox said Ramsey was untruthful in a December letter to the university community regarding allegations of potential misconduct involving Dunn and vice president / chief information officer Priscilla Hancock.

Ramsey said in a Dec. 9 university-wide letter that Dunn and Hancock had been placed on leave after 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, but Willihnganz’s was dismissive of Wilcox’s concerns about the matter.

Another element of Wilcox’s “vague” misconduct claim is an allegation that Ramsey failed to fill out a required conflict of interest disclosure form, according to Shake’s opinion.

Shake ruled that Wilcox can continue trying to prove that he was “constructively discharged” by U of L – meaning that his superiors made his work environment so untenable that he was forced to resign, a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

With no evidence collected so far, “it is impossible to gage (sic) the severity of the conduct” that Wilcox’s alleges, Shake ruled.

The university had argued in a motion to dismiss that Wilcox’s decision to resign was entirely voluntary.

The university said much of the lawsuit was “nothing more than a recitation of Wilcox’s mundane day-to-day work as a University compliance officer.”

Wilcox’s attorney Laurie Goetz Kemp was unavailable on Tuesday. A university spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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