We have presented evidence that an alliance among debt collectors, a sleazy lawyer, and the administration of a corrupt Republican governor might have played a prominent role in my unlawful termination at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).
But does this scenario make chronological sense? Does it fit with a timeline of events that led up to my firing?
The answer: Yes, it does fit--almost like a glove.
At the end of this post, we present a timeline showing that actions by debt collectors, threats against our cars and house, and my ultimate termination at UAB dovetail almost perfectly.
Before we examine the complete timeline, let's look at a few key events that show how our problems with debt collectors, threats on our house, and my eventual termination at UAB march in lockstep:
* I started this blog in June 2007, and strange events started happening at work in December 2007, culminating with my termination in May 2008. I've long associated those events with someone's desire to shut down this blog because of its coverage about the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama. After all, I have a tape-recorded conversation with a UAB human-resources official stating that I was targeted because of my blog's content about Siegelman. But evidence now suggests that wasn't the only reason I was targeted.
* In July 2007, one month after I started this blog, my wife and I began to hear from debt collectors--Birmingham-based Ingram & Associates, working on behalf of Pennsylvania-based NCO--claiming I owed a debt to American Express. I wrote three posts in early August 2007 about our interactions with debt collectors. (Here is a link to one of those posts.) I didn't know it at the time, but the posts presented evidence indicating that Ingram & Associates had violated the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA).
* This must have concerned someone, because roughly a month later--in September 2007--Alabama lawyer William E. Swatek applied for a writ of execution on our cars and house , seeking a $1,525 judgment on behalf of our troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity. The judgment was more than three years old at the time, and Swatek had never made any effort to collect on it. To this day, we've never received a demand letter asking that we pay the judgment.
* On December 6, 2007, I wrote a post ("Muzzling the Legal Schnauzer?") about our receipt of the writ of execution. As I've reported several times on this blog, early December 2007 was when my former supervisor, Pam Powell, began a harassment campaign that continued for roughly the last six months I worked at UAB.
* On February 13, 2008, I wrote a post ("Jack-Booted Thugs Visit The Schnauzer") about receipt of a notice of levy on our house--and my suspicions about Governor Bob Riley's role in all of this. According to testimony from Pam Powell at my grievance hearing, this was the general timeframe when UAB was monitoring my computer usage.
* On April 4, 2008, I received one of many anonymous comments mocking me about the alleged American Express debt, and this one noted the last four digits of my Social Security number. (I moderate comments and did not run this one on the blog.)
* On April 14, 2008, I received an anonymous comment stating that I appeared to be blogging at work, and UAB needed to be informed about it. This comment, which does appear on the blog, is curious for a number of reasons. One, I had never identified myself as a UAB employee or written about UAB issues, so someone went to the trouble to look up information about where I worked. Two, the day in question was a Monday, and I was on vacation, so I wasn't blogging at work--on that day or any other day. But UAB proceeded to use this as a general excuse for firing me. That indicates that someone from outside the university was involved in the process.
* On April 15, 2008, the very next day after receiving this anonymous threat, my supervisor gave me a written warning when I protested her issuance of an oral warning that was contrary to UAB policy--and involved issues that either were bogus or already had been resolved. This action, coming so soon after the anonymous threats, indicates someone external to the university had reached UAB management.
* On May 4 and May 6, 2008, I wrote posts ("Date Looms With the Jack Booted Thugs" and "A Roadmap of Corruption in Real Time") that indicate I knew the upcoming sheriff's sale of our house was unlawful and driven by ulterior motives. I also indicated my wife and I were not going to cave to the pressure and "work something out" with Bill Swatek--as we had repeatedly been asked to do by Shelby County deputies.
* What happens when it becomes it clear that I know the house sale is a ruse? I get placed on administrative leave at UAB--on May 7, 2008.
* How long does it take for the American Express issue to raise its head again? One day. On May 8, 2008, I receive an anonymous comment: "How are the folks at AMEX treating you?" This indicates that an external person, who was paying close attention to the AMEX issue, knew I had been placed on administrative leave at UAB.
* On May 14 and May 16, 2008, I wrote posts about the sheriff's sale that had taken place on May 12, while I was on administrative leave. These posts ("Showdown in Shelby County, Part II" and "Caught on Tape: Corrupt Alabama Republicans") include video footage of the actual sale.
* May 16 was a Friday. On the very next work day, May 19, I was terminated at UAB.
The bottom line? Our issues connected to an alleged debt owed to American Express weave throughout the story of my unlawful termination at UAB. And let's keep this in mind: We now know that neither Ingram & Associates nor NCO has a shred of evidence that I even had an AMEX card, much less that I owed a debt on one.
Here is the complete timeline, showing in stark detail the connections between debt collectors and the cheat job I experienced at UAB:
Swatek Ingram Timeline