John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Sep. 3, 2012, 7:53pm

GALVESTON - A local university at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit is asking a state district judge for a change in venue. 

Texas A&M University at Galveston requests that Galveston County 122nd District Court Judge John Ellisor send Yvonne Janelle Fowler and Jaime Padgett's suit to Brazos County.

Fowler and Padgett are suing TAMUG on claims they were subjected to harassment and abuse by an assistant department head.

Their suit asserts Dr. Frank Warnakulasuriya, the ex-assistant department head for the maritime systems engineering department, allegedly abused Fowler and physically attacked Padgett.

Warnakulasuriya is also a defendant.

According to Fowler, she endured about five years of harassment, which included unwanted sexual advances and invasion of work and personal space.

She insists Warnakulasuriya continued with the misconduct despite three reports filed against him between late 2007 and late 2010.

The suit also claims Padgett and Fowler tried to hide from Warnakulasuriya, but he caught up with them and assaulted Padgett.

The alleged event forced a then-seven-months-pregnant Padgett to deliver a baby “born bruised, bleeding from the brain and unable to breath,” the suit claims.

They argue the school retained Warnakulasuriya despite their allegations.

Fowler ultimately resigned and was reportedly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Warnakulasuriya formally countered the women's claims in an original answer filed Aug. 17. The campus fielded its own response 10 days later.

TAMUG's motion to transfer says Brazos County is the "proper county of venue" because The Texas A&M University System, of which the defendant is a branch, is headquartered there.

The Texas Attorney General's Office is representing the university.


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