Today marks the first anniversary of being cheated out of my job at UAB.
Last May 19 I walked into a meeting with Dale Turnbough (associate vice president for public relations and marketing) and Anita Bonasera (director of employee relations) and was handed a termination letter, telling me I was being relieved of my duties after 19 years on the job. This was after I had been placed on administrative for 12 days.
I recently showed the termination letter to someone who is intimately familiar with labor and employment matters. "You can tell they didn't have grounds for firing you," she said. "The letter is filled with generalities, but there is nothing about a specific reason for the termination."
My favorite part is how the letter makes two or three references to policy violations, but never says what the policies are. That's because I didn't violate any policies. But that's a small matter to UAB when it is trying to do someone's political bidding.
So what do you do on the first anniversary of being cheated out of your job? I'd never considered that question before. Do you "celebrate"? Do you hold a vigil of some sort.
Here in Schnauzer world, we plan to "keep on keepin' on" with the same activity we've been doing: blogging about our broken justice system; investigating the people and entities who, evidence suggests, played a role in my unlawful termination; laying the groundwork for a lawsuit against UAB (actually the University of Alabama Board of Trustees) and the individuals responsible for my firing.
Actually, I don't like to use terms like "firing" and "termination" because they suggest that this was about employment issues. And I'm convinced it wasn't; it was about politics.
UAB pretty much admits that. Its own grievance committee found that I was wrongfully terminated. And how did UAB react to that? By trying to force two more adverse job actions on me--saying I could only return to work with two written warnings in my file and to a job other than the one I had before.
I sat through the entire grievance hearing and knew that UAB had no grounds to support discipline of any kind, much less two written warnings, so I wasn't about to take that deal. Plus, with three written warnings in an 18-month period of time you are automatically fired. Clearly, UAB was trying to set it up to fire me all over again.
Why would a university act in such a nutty, malicious, and deceitful fashion? UAB itself had no motivation to act that way. So someone external to the university clearly is pulling the strings. My guess is that something I had written on my blog had threatened someone either politically or financially, and they decided I needed to be unemployed.
But here's what is so stupid about that strategy: If someone is writing a citizen-journalism blog that you don't like, the last thing you want to do is cost him his job. That only gives him more time to conduct research on relevant subjects.
When I was working full time, I threw Legal Schnauzer together on the fly, in my spare time. (Contrary to Dale Turnbough's allegations, I wasn't doing it at work; UAB's own investigation by an IT guy showed that.)
Since being fired, I've uncovered all sorts of interesting information about sleazy GOP-style politics in Alabama. Some of it appears to be connected to my termination; some of it isn't. I've already written about some of it; much of it is coming in future posts.
We've uncovered important information about such political/business/legal figures as Rob Riley, Bob Riley, Alice Martin, Dax Swatek, William Cobb "Chip" Hazelrig, Mark Fuller, Doug Jones, and more. We are following numerous leads about rampant wrongdoing at UAB, which points to the wretched "leadership" of President Carol Garrison. We also are working on a series of posts about Garrison's personal misconduct, which probably should have resulted in her dismissal early in her tenure.
We also are working on a story about a company owned by a member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees. This company was implicated several years ago in a massive reinsurance-fraud case in Pennsylvania, but federal prosecutors failed to follow up on the Alabama aspects of the case. Is someone who runs a criminal enterprise serving on the UA Board of Trustees? Certainly looks that way, and we will be reporting on it here at Legal Schnauzer.
We are intrigued by the recent exit at UAB of Cheryl E.H. Locke, the human-resources director who made the bad-faith offer for me to return under improper conditions. She since has taken what appears to be a lesser job at Wake Forest. Why? My guess is that Cheryl Locke actually has a conscience, and she was tired of doing the bidding of a corrupt UAB administration. UAB still has a lot of great qualities as an institution, but someone with a conscience is likely to be uncomfortable under the current regime.
What have we learned in the past year? Well, we've received a high-level education in how to fight corruption. Actually, Mrs. Schnauzer and I have been doing that for eight or nine years when it comes to the corrupt courts in Shelby County, where we live. But the ante gets raised considerably when someone goes after your job.
It's been heartening to see the attention my case has received in the press. Lindsay Beyerstein at Raw Story, Robin Wilson at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Scott Horton at Harper's, and Joan Brunwasser at OpEd News (Part One and Part Two) all have covered issues raised by the case.
I've always believed in the idea that knowledge is power, and that's what Legal Schnauzer strives to be about. We try to gain knowledge about matters you aren't likely to find in the mainstream press and share it with readers, letting them know how the justice system in our country really "works."
I'm often asked about the status of my legal case against UAB. There isn't much new to report on that. Employment cases have to go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and I filed a discrimination complaint--called a charge--on November 6, 2008. The EEOC has 180 days to conduct an investigation of the matter, which means I should receive notice any day that the investigation has been concluded.
Unfortunately, I'm told that, as a government bureaucracy with a heavy caseload, the EEOC is noted for running over the 180-day time frame. I'm also told that sometimes the EEOC does a useful investigation and sometimes it doesn't do much of anything, other than sending a right-to-sue letter. A lawsuit cannot proceed until the EEOC has completed its work, so it may be a few more weeks before I hear anything.
I'm not a lawyer, but I play one on the Web, and the legal issues seem clear. Age discrimination, gender discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and defamation certainly are present. The key concept on most employment issues is "disparate treatment," and there is ample evidence of that.
My case goes beyond standard employment issues, to First Amendment violations. That is likely to be front and center. The case against UAB is overwhelming, but I (of all people) am aware of how judges can cheat parties and deny justice. I'm also aware that I'm the "little guy" going against an institution with a huge advantage in resources. Nothing will be certain in the days ahead.
With an honest justice system, UAB has serious problems--both in my case and in several others. But we don't have an honest justice system; that's the whole reason I started this blog. So who knows what will happen.
Thorough discovery in my case probably would lead in all kinds of interesting political directions. It probably would reveal civil fraud and perhaps even criminal activity.
Under federal law, the public has an "intangible right" to the honest-services of UAB officials. That right clearly was violated in my case--and that goes beyond any wrongs committed against me. That's a wrong against the public, and that's why it's a crime.
Would a federal prosecutor, even in the age of Obama, have the guts to bring such a case? Probably not. But the public should know that the people who currently lead UAB have established an environment where criminal activity can, and almost surely does, take place.
While this will start off, I suspect, as a standard employment case, it really is about a "political hit." Will we be able to determine who actually was responsible for it? I'm sure as heck going to try.
Year one of my post-UAB life has been interesting. Year two is likely to be even more so.