Court Rules for Md. College in Race Discrimination Suit
ARNOLD, Md. — A former vice president of Anne Arundel Community College has lost another round in her race discrimination suit against the school’s board of trustees and president.
The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., unanimously upheld a verdict against Dr. Augustine Pounds, who lost her job at the college in late 1995.
At the trial, a federal jury in Baltimore concluded that Pounds was qualified for the job but found that her job performance was unsatisfactory when the college terminated her.
Pounds’ lawyer, Andrew Radding, did not return phone calls, and where the case will go from here is unclear.
Two of the elements that make the case unusual are Pounds’ high-ranking administrative position at a public institution and the fact that the case made it to trial rather than being dismissed, as job discrimination cases often are, according to the college’s lawyer, Russell Gardner of Baltimore.
In 1991, Pounds was hired by then-president Dr. Thomas Florestano to serve as vice president and dean for student services, college development and intercollegiate athletics.
In the summer of 1994, Dr. Martha Smith became president. Tensions arose between the two after Smith terminated the admissions director on Pounds’ recommendation. The court says, “contrary to Pounds’ prediction, there was an immediate and strong negative reaction by the admissions director’s staff .”
What followed, the court says, was an “ongoing conflict” between Pounds, who is Black, and Smith, who is White.
In December 1995, the board of trustees endorsed Smith’s decision to discharge Pounds. Her salary and benefits were paid for the remaining part of her contract for 1995-1996, the court said.
Pounds sued, alleging that the college’s failure to renew her contract was due to racial discrimination by the board and Smith. She sought reinstatement and damages.
The college denied any bias and asserted that it had legitimate nondiscriminatory reasons to terminate her.
The jury agreed with the college that the termination was justified.
On appeal, the court rejected Pounds’ argument that the jury shouldn’t have heard evidence concerning her discrimination suits against two previous employers.
The court ruled that the evidence didn’t unfairly prejudice her case, saying, “Dr. Pounds placed at issue her perceptions of racial issues relating to employment issues. And the evidence established other instances in which she accused Anne Arundel Community College employees of racist conduct.”
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