Lamar University dismissed from wrongful termination suit

David Yates Nov. 18, 2013, 3:27pm

A plea to the jurisdiction has been granted in a wrongful termination suit against Lamar University.

The former associate vice president of finance for Lamar State University, who authored a highly publicized report criticizing the college’s spending, claims she lost her job due to her connection with the report. 

As previously reported, Vicki Ward filed a lawsuit May 9 in Jefferson County District Court against Lamar University, Texas State University System and then-University President James Simmons.

Court records show that on July 6, Ward’s attorney, Larry Watts, filed the motion for temporary stay, asserting he suffered an accident resulting in a broken hip.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, granted the motion on July 10, court papers say.

When the case resumed, Lamar filed a plea to the jurisdiction on Oct. 28, asserting that Ward is still employed by Lamar and that her amended petition, which names the Texas State University System as a defendant, has no conduct attributed and is also not Ward’s employer, court records show.

On Nov. 6 Floyd granted the motion, dismissing Lamar and the Texas State University System.

Ward alleged Simmons, who was president of Lamar University, forced her from her position after she wrote a report that was leaked to the media. In the report, the college was criticized for spending $66,000 worth of government money at Barnes and Noble and Sam’s Club on gift cards and other items.

In her report, Ward also revealed inadequate dorm conditions in which drugs were allegedly found on countertops and rooms were rented to people who were not college students, according to the complaint.

Ward was asking that the court issue an injunction, which would prohibit the school from engaging in further retaliatory acts against her. She also wants the court to reinstate her to her former position of associate vice president and controller.

She sought compensatory damages, plus back and front pay, attorney’s fees, costs, pre- and post-judgment interest at the maximum rate allowed by law and other relief the court deems just.

Larry Watts and Ike Okorafor of Watts and Associates in Missouri City represent her.

The defendants are represented by the Texas attorney general's office.

Case No. E194-323

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