Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Alabama A&M trustee Kevin Ball, like President Daniel K. Wims, has a history with allegations of sexual misconduct -- and Ball is a staunch Wims' supporter

The Alabama A&M Board of Trustees meet in Birmingham

A member of Alabama A&M's board of trustees has faced sexual-harassment allegations similar to those against the university's president, Daniel K. Wims. Does that help explain Trustee Kevin Ball's steady support for Wims, even as a string of scandals swirl around the embattled president? The answer appears to be yes, according to a report today at A longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online investigative journalism, Watkins writes under the headline "Federal Judge: Alabama A&M Trustee Kevin Ball's Comments to Female Employee Were "Not Appropriate":

On May 18, 2010, a federal judge in Birmingham found that Alabama A&M University Trustee Kevin Ball made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to a female employee of Ball Healthcare Jefferson, Inc., d/b/a Cherry Hill Heathcare Center. [A copy of the judge's Order may be viewed here.]

LaTanya Tanniehill was the female employee who caught Kevin Ball's unwanted sexual attention. Tanniehill worked at Cherry Hill Healthcare Center as a certified nursing assistant when she said Ball made inappropriate sexual comments to her from about November or December 2006 to August 2007.

Cherry Hill was a residential nursing home, operated by Ball Healthcare, that provided professional nursing and rehabilitation services for the elderly. Kevin Ball’s father, Clarence Ball, was responsible for the corporate management of Ball Healthcare Services and its subsidiaries, including defendant, Ball Healthcare-Jefferson, Inc.

Kevin Ball, who is married, was the administrator of Cherry Hill Healthcare Center during the period of time in question. Ball has been an Alabama A&M trustee since 2014.

Tanniehill filed a federal lawsuit that presents an ugly picture of Ball's actions related to the workplace. Writes Watkins:

LaTanya Tanniehill’s federal-court lawsuit alleged that in September 2006, Kevin Ball started sexually harassing her and offered her increased compensation and privileges in exchange for sex. Tanniehill said she rejected Kevin Ball’s advances and reported him to Ball Healthcare Services' corporate office.

On September 21, 2007, Tanniehill was fired, and she contended that her termination was without cause but was based on her complaints about Kevin Ball. Tanniehill asserted legal claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for sexual harassment, maintenance of a sexually hostile environment, and retaliation.

How did a federal judge view the allegations against Ball? Not favorably, reports Watkins, quoting extensively from the court's findings:

The Court made the following findings regarding Kevin Ball's inappropriate sexual comments to LaTanya Tanniehill:

According to Tanniehill, around November or December 2006, she was walking to a local night club (The Platinum Club) after work one evening when Kevin Ball pulled up beside her in his car and asked if she was supposed to be at work. When she responded “no,” he asked if she had his cell phone number. When she again responded “no,” he allegedly stated that she “should have it.”

On another occasion in 2006, Tanniehill was talking by cell phone with a male friend, who handed Ball the telephone. Ball then asked Tanniehill “if [s]he had any friends that he could talk to” and, when Tanniehill said “no,” he stated that “[t]here were a lot of people he was considering talking to at the nursing home, but he had too much to lose.” . . . .

After Tanniehill clocked out after her shift on August 28, 2007, she visited Kevin Ball’s office. She was still upset with [Director of Nursing Judy] Mason over her work schedule. At the end of the meeting, Tanniehill asserts that Ball stated, “As pretty as you are, I know you are not going to worry about the number of hours you will get, because you can get paid off your looks.” She also claims that he asked her if she would meet him at the local night club and “see what it leads to.”

Later in the evening of August 28, 2007, Tanniehill telephoned [Director of Human Resource] Sharon Prince-Moore to complain about Kevin Ball’s “sexual harassment” under Cherry Hill’s EEO Policy. She reported that, when she visited Administrator Ball to discuss her work schedule, he “blew her off” and commented on her good looks and her hair style. Moore then called President Clarence Ball to report Tanniehill’s complaint. . . .

Moore conducted an examination and completed a report for Clarence Ball. Moore advised Clarence Ball that she could not confirm that Kevin Ball engaged in sexual harassment but that some of his comments were not appropriate. She recommended that [Kevin Ball] be provided with in-service counseling and training on the EEO Policy, particularly on sexual harassment. . . .

Moore met with Kevin Ball on September 14, 2007, and provided the instructions regarding Tanniehill’s supervision and conducted the in-service training on the EEO Policy.

Also, on September 14, 2007, Moore met with Tanniehill and informed her of the results of the investigation. Moore assured Tanniehill that she would not be subjected to any further unwelcome comments by Kevin Ball. . . .

As for Ball's role at Alabama A&M, he voted to hire Daniel Wims as president and has remained a steady presence in Wims' corner. Meanwhile, LaTanya Tanniehill experienced a peculiar outcome in federal court, Watkins reports:

Kevin Ball is one of the seven Alabama A&M University trustees who voted to hire Dr. Daniel K. Wims as the university’s president in October 2021. The allegations that Dr. Wims engaged in sexual misconduct involving three women and one man did not faze Ball when he cast his vote for Wims. After all, Ball had faced his own sexual-misconduct allegations in the LaTanya Tanniehill case.

Ms. Tanniehill lost her Title VII case on a summary-judgment motion filed by Ball Healthcare on August 5, 2009. For reasons that are unexplained in the record, Tanniehill's lawyers failed to timely file a response in opposition to the motion. When her lawyers tried to correct this legal faux pas nine months later, the judge declined to give them permission to file a nine-months late response to the motion. As such, Ball Healthcare’s motion for a judgment without a trial was deemed to be "unopposed."

Additionally, the judge also cited the fact that Tanniehill’s lawyers failed to name Kevin Ball as a defendant in the case and failed to assert any companion state-law claims against Ball in his personal capacity.

This combination of lawyer failings and miscues allowed Kevin Ball to escape liability for his sexual comments in Tanniehill's case.

Ball went on to develop an interest in sports promotion, an area where Dr. Wims has experience in Alabama's ring-wing political environment. Writes Watkins:

Meanwhile, in 2021, Kevin Ball requested and received an advisory opinion from the Alabama Ethics Commission on how he could own an equity interest in, and benefit from, a sports-promotion company that promotes an annual Classic football game in Mobile, Alabama, that features Alabama A&M as one of the participating universities.

On August 4, 2021, the Ethics Commission provided guidance and restrictions to Ball on this question, nearly two months prior to his vote in favor of Wims for president.

We will have much more to report on Kevin Ball's sports-promotion business in an upcoming article.

Kevin Ball and Daniel Wims now enjoy a symbiotic relationship on: (a) successfully escaping sexual-misconduct allegations; and (b) their mutual desire to “grift” from the Alabama A&M University platform. Ball is a staunch supporter of Wims, and all that this entails.

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