Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Alabama A&M faculty member alleges he was fired for raising financial concerns -- and faced discrimination for his sexual orientation -- as president reportedly seeks a rushed lawsuit settlement for $10 million

Prof. Edward Jones, Alabama A&M

A veteran faculty member claims in a federal lawsuit that he was unlawfully fired at Alabama A&M University after raising concerns about financial mismanagement in the university's College of Education. A&M counters in court documents that the faculty member actually was fired for engaging in sexual misconduct with multiple students on campus. The university's president reportedly is in a rush to settle the lawsuit for $10 million out of concerns that allegations regarding his own sexual indiscretions might surface during litigation.

All of that is from a story that broke last night at donaldwatkins.com. Just a few weeks ago, the main issue at A&M involved possible financial irregularities related to the highly popular, and profitable, Magic City Classic football game, which is played each fall at Birmingham's Legion Field, against Alabama State. The latest controversy, which involves dueling story lines of alleged sexual indiscretions, threatens to make concerns about the football game seem positively quaint.

Donald Watkins, longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, reports that the sex-related case has been simmering since 2016, when tenured faculty member Edward Jones filed a federal complaint alleging he was terminated for raising concerns about financial mismanagement and was the victim of discrimination due to his sexual orientation. The case seems to be reaching a boiling point, with a host of high-profile individuals and entities involved.

Under the headline "Alabama A&M’s President Daniel Wims Rushing to Settle Sexual Orientation Case for $10 Million," Watkins writes:

There are reports (last night)  that Alabama A&M President Daniel Wims is rushing to settle a federal lawsuit brought by former tenured professor Edward Jones against the university and several top officials for $10 million. In 2016, Dr. Jones sued the university’s board of trustees, president (Dr. Andrew Hugine), provost (Dr. Daniel Wims), and dean of the College of Education.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants discriminated against Dr. Jones based upon his sexual orientation. It also alleges that Jones was fired after years of harassment and only when Jones attempted to bring to light administrative issues and concerns.

The rush to settle the lawsuit for $10 million appears to be an effort by President Wims to head off what he expects are new revelations in the case that will be presented in my upcoming articles.

Alabama's somnolent mainstream press tends to ignore major stories of public interest. But that is not the case with the Alabama A&M sex story. Al.com (The Birmingham News) has joined the fray on this one, Watkins reports:

A news summary of Dr. Jones' lawsuit appears in a March 16, 2016, article by AL.com reporter Paul Gettis titled, “Alabama A&M fires professor over sex acts committed on campus.Here is part of what Gettis wrote:

Alabama A&M University fired a tenured professor in March after the school discovered videos of him participating in sexual activity with two students on campus, according to court documents.

The school severed ties with Edward Jones, who has worked more than 20 years at Alabama A&M. Most recently, he served as director of the Office of Teacher Education and Certification.

According to court documents filed in federal court by Alabama A&M, videos of Jones were discovered on a school laptop that recorded the professor in three sex acts, including twice having oral sex with two different male students. All three instances occurred on the Alabama A&M campus, the school said.

Jones filed a lawsuit against Alabama A&M in February after the school began termination proceedings after what the lawsuit described as years of harassment when Jones attempted to bring to light administrative issues and concerns. . . .

The videos were found on a school laptop recovered at Jones' home after Huntsville police and Alabama A&M police executed a search warrant, according to court documents.

Once the videos were discovered, Alabama A&M informed Jones he would be fired.

"There is convincing evidence that you have engaged in sexual conduct below minimum standards of professional integrity and misused university computing/electronic assets in gross violation of well-established university policy," school Provost Daniel Wims (now president) wrote in Jones' March 10, 2016 termination letter, which was included in the court file.

According to a memo from Alabama A&M police investigator Brian Ruble, two of the videos were made in 2011 and the third in 2012.

Jones previously received a letter outlining the school's intention to terminate him after sexually-graphic photos were discovered on the professor's work computer.

In the lawsuit Jones filed, he criticized the Alabama A&M administration for ignoring "red flags" he raised concerning the Office of Teacher Education and Certification. School officials retaliated against  Jones, his lawsuit said, because he wouldn't "play ball and keep his mouth shut about Dr. Jones' previous warnings that AAMU had dropped the ball in several areas of fiscal grant management and implementation."

"Dr. Jones' whistleblower speech and signed statement regarding AAMU's illegal conduct in charging students for services it did not provide and mismanaging federal and state funds designed to implement a teacher certification information management system was met with a retaliatory attempt to terminate him, prosecute him, and humiliate and ruin Dr. Jones' reputation," the lawsuit stated.

In a statement to AL.com, Alabama A&M denied the allegations in the lawsuit. The statement said Jones was guilty of "gross professional misconduct."

Is that the final word on this story, which seems to be getting steamier by the day? Definitely not, Watkins writes:

As we will explain in upcoming articles, there is much more to the Ed Jones story. Is Dr. Wims attempting to buy Dr. Edward Jones' silence for $10 million?

Stay tuned!

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