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Suspended Southern U. President Slaughter Fires Back With Lawsuit

Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter, recently suspended from his job, has filed a lawsuit that details complaints from nine female university employees and one student who claim Southern University Board Chairman Johnny Anderson made unwelcome sexual advances toward them.

Several complaints involved sexual advances in exchange for pay raises and promotions that Anderson made to the women during out-of-town board trips, in some cases asking them repeatedly to come to his hotel room. At least one of the victims allegedly quit her job after Anderson pressured her to go on a trip with him to Atlanta on board business.

Anderson has temporarily relinquished his gavel amid a university investigation and a federal grand jury probe into the complaints.

Slaughter declined comment for this story, but his attorney Jill Craft said he has been a whistleblower for a board that was more interested in covering up the allegations against Anderson, who also serves as assistant chief of staff for Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Slaughter’s lawsuit alleges that the Southern Board was retaliating against him when it suspended him for two months with pay on May 5. No reason was given for the suspension with pay, but several board members had complained previously that Slaughter was not cooperating with an attorney appointed by Blanco to investigate the alleged sexual harassment.

Slaughter said the governor’s attorney never provided credentials entitling him to personnel records, which are confidential under Louisiana law. Slaughter noted that he had already turned over most of the records to the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a federal grant jury investigation that is still ongoing.

The lawsuit noted that the governor, through her attorney, issued a public report that claimed Slaughter was insubordinate and refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Slaughter’s lawsuit was filed against the Southern Board collectively, the governor and individual board members Dale Atkins and James Joseph, who allegedly shredded a report on the complaints that Slaughter gave the board at the May 5 meeting.

The lawsuit said that when Slaughter approached Atkins last fall about the complaints, she said Anderson had made advances toward a friend of hers. The lawsuit quotes Atkins as saying that Anderson tried to “kiss her in the mouth and touch her breasts.”

But the lawsuit claims that Atkins, Joseph and other board members schemed to fire Slaughter during their May 5 executive session.

Behind closed doors, the board agreed that to fire Slaughter at that point would likely trigger a lawsuit, and concocted a plan to suspend him with pay, bring him back and give him a bad evaluation, and then fire him.

The lawsuit also describes how board members grilled Slaughter during the executive session about why he wrote a letter late last year to state Sen. Charles Jones, asking for help in investigating the complaints against Anderson.

Slaughter claims that a university attorney advised him to take the complaints to Jones, who chairs the Senate and Governmental Affairs that coordinates the confirmation of the Southern University board members after they are appointed by the governor.

At its May 5 meeting, the Southern Board directed the university’s human resources director, Lester Pourciau, to conduct an investigation against the allegation against Anderson, and ordered Slaughter to cooperate.

In a telephone interview Monday, Anderson flatly denied that he had sexually harassed anyone at Southern University, and said he has never been called to testify before a grand jury.

“If all of this really happened, why aren’t the alleged victims coming forward?Why aren’t they filing lawsuits instead of the system president?” Anderson asked. “It has to be made up.”

Anderson downplayed Slaugher’s claims that he acted as a whistleblower.

“He’s no whistleblower, he’s the system president. If one of his employees has a problem, he has an obligation to do the right thing,” Anderson said.

In this case, Anderson said the “right thing” was referring the complaints to the university’s human resources office.

The complaints, if they exist, are personnel matters, and should never have been turned over a legislative committee, Anderson said.

The governor’s office referred all calls regarding the Anderson allegations to attorney Mark Falcon, who could not be reached for comment.

Winston DeCuir, an attorney who provides legal services to the Southern Board,  could not be reached for comment

–Scott Dyer


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