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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Has UAB Become a Hotbed for Mismanagement and Corruption?

The UAB men's basketball team took the floor last night against Jacksonville State with only six scholarship players on hand, well below the NCAA-allowed 13.

That's because the program took a major hit on Tuesday--two players were declared academically ineligible and two others left the program for unspecified reasons.

All of UAB's usual starters were in place, and they responded admirably to a tough situation, beating Jacksonville State, 75-48. But UAB's once-proud basketball program became almost a butt of jokes on SI.com, Fanhouse, and other sports Web sites.

While some fans quickly pointed fingers at Coach Mike Davis or Athletics Director Brian Mackin, I think a couple of other questions should be raised: Is an implosion taking place on Birmingham's Southside and does it go well beyond the basketball program? And are the basketball problems merely a symptom of problems brewing under the weak leadership of President Carol Garrison?

Substantial evidence suggests that Garrison is steering the institution right into an iceberg. Let's consider some recent UAB-related headlines:

* A longtime engineering professor files a discrimination lawsuit, alleging wide-ranging pay disparity for female faculty members.

* A longtime history professor files a discrimination lawsuit, alleging disparate pay for African-American faculty members.

* A major donor to the university has a horrifying history behind the wheel, including a conviction for driving 112 mph in a 55 zone, and a history of potentially problematic political and business affiliations.

* An office associate in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics uses state equipment to send a hate-filled e-mail to a California gay-rights group. UAB has announced no disciplinary actions for this clear violation of university policy.

A number of other UAB stories are lurking just beneath the headlines. You will be reading about them here at Legal Schnauzer:

* A School of Business faculty member, Susan Key, has filed a lawsuit alleging disparate treatment, retaliation, and equal-pay violations. Part of her claim involves allegations that former marketing faculty member Bob Underwood routinely conducted a "comedy act" involving an elderly black character named "Pork Chop." For some reason, black staff members found Underwood's act offensive, but Key states that it was allowed to go on for an extended period of time. Key's suit helped set off a number of administrative changes at the School of Business. Underwood exited to Furman University.

* Multiple medical trainees from India have alleged discriminatory practices at UAB's program in Huntsville. This includes a finding by the U.S. Department of Labor that some trainees were not paid properly. (This story already is making headlines in India, and soon should be making headlines here--although the Birmingham press is likely to ignore it.)

* A key administrator, who was at the heart of several human-resources imbroglios, recently left the university to take a job at another institution in the South. It appears she "got out while the gettin' was good," in order to preserve her professional reputation from activities going on at UAB.

* A case involving two whistleblowers outlines massive research fraud at UAB. The case was "settled" with the university paying roughly $3 million, but court documents indicate the actual fraud was at least 100 times that amount. Settlement documents state a criminal, civil, or administrative investigation can be reopened at any time. This could be a priority for an Obama-appointed U.S. attorney in Birmingham, considering that UAB evidently has cheated taxpayers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and records show that current U.S. Attorney Alice Martin never conducted a thorough investigation. Evidence also suggests that Martin, who already is under investigation by multiple government agencies, used this case as leverage to get a certain blogging UAB employee fired.

* A company owned by a well-known member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees was implicated in a major fraud case a few years back in Pennsylvania. So far, the trustee and his company have managed to escape scrutiny. But again, that could change with an Obama-appointed U.S. attorney in Birmingham. Documents from the Pennsylvania case show the Alabama fraud case is pretty much already made. Someone just needs to have the guts to bring it.

* Finally, we have my discrimination complaint, which has been filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). That process, which usually runs about six months, is a precursor to a lawsuit against UAB. The case promises to be much more than a standard employment lawsuit. Substantial evidence shows that I did not engage in misconduct or violate policy in anyway and that my termination was driven by political forces external to UAB. If the U.S. mails and/or the federal wires (computers, telephone lines, etc.) were used in furtherance of a fraudulent scheme to unlawfully fire me, criminal behavior might be involved. Let me rephrase that: Criminal behavior--honest services mail or wire fraud--definitely would be involved, regardless of whether law-enforcement ever brings charges.

The bottom line? These might seem like tough days at UAB, with a few basketball players hitting the exits. But a year or two from now, after a few perp walks have been conducted with university leaders, these might seem like the good old days.

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