Lamar employee appeals university’s plea to the jurisdiction win

David Yates Dec. 19, 2013, 12:51pm

A defendant in a wrongful termination suit has appealed a ruling that granted Lamar University’s plea to the jurisdiction.

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, the Texas State University System and then-University President James Simmons.

On Oct. 28, Lamar filed a plea to the jurisdiction, 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, Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, granted the motion, dismissing Lamar and the Texas State University System.

A month later, Ward filed a notice of appeal, challenging the judge’s decision to grant the defendants’ plea to the jurisdiction.

In her suit, Ward alleges 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 & 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 seeks 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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