University Settles Suit With Congressman’s Wife

University Settles Suit With Congressman’s Wife

NEW ORLEANS

The Southern University System has settled a lawsuit filed by the wife of a Louisiana congressman that will give her a settlement plus a new job.

Dr. Andrea Green Jefferson, the wife of U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., filed suit more than a year ago after she was removed as vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern University at New Orleans or SUNO (see Black Issues, Jan. 3, 2002).

As part of the settlement, she was named to the newly created post of assistant vice president for development for the university system, a fund-raising post. She will get a $70,000 annual salary, plus a $50,000 settlement.

The Southern University System Board of Supervisors approved her removal in December 2001 at the request of then-Chancellor Joseph Bouie. That came a month before the board removed Bouie from his office, citing allegations of fiscal mismanagement.

Bouie has returned to his old job as SUNO professor of social work, sticking to a claim that he was removed because he “refused to participate in political nepotism.” With his demotion, Bouie’s salary dropped from $120,000 to $63,000.

The document settling Jefferson’s lawsuit, as well as a state ethics complaint she filed under a whistleblower law, concedes she worked in a “competent and professional manner” in the SUNO academic post. But it also says that as an unclassified worker, she could be removed at any time by system officials regardless of her performance.

In seeking a compromise, the board said it could have been forced to restore Jefferson to the SUNO vice chancellor’s post and pay her nearly $100,000 if she won her case. Jefferson was paid $75,000 a year as vice chancellor.

“I don’t know how it came about, but certainly they together agreed that it would be an appropriate job,” says Jefferson’s attorney, Jeff Wilkerson.

Dr. Ralph Slaughter, a Southern system vice president for administration, said Jefferson’s 2001 removal from the SUNO post did not signal board disapproval.

“Dr. Jefferson’s removal was done by the chancellor, who indicated that he wanted to have his own team,” Slaughter says. “The board was more or less willing to let him make that decision. Her removal has nothing to do with her professional competency.”

Bouie said Jefferson’s hiring is evidence that system officials will take unusual steps to protect individuals who are politically influential.



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