Education

Dismissed St. Aug's employees, including track coach George Williams, sue claiming wrongful termination

Posted July 9, 2020 11:29 a.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2020 12:27 p.m. EDT

— Four former, high-ranking employees at St. Augustine's University in Raleigh filed a wrongful termination lawsuit Thursday against the school, targeting members of the Board of Trustees and the current interim president.

Among the plaintiffs is legendary track coach George Williams and the school's former interim president, Gaddis Faulcon. The plaintiffs claim they were retaliated against for raising concerns about how the school was being run.

Williams' attorney, Nicholas J. Sanservino Jr., last week said his client was "abandoned" by his alma mater. According to Sanservino, Williams was made to choose between taking a 50 percent pay cut and moving into a new position as athletic director emeritus or leaving the university where he won 39 national championships.

Sanservino said Williams chose to leave and was given a letter of termination.

Williams and Faulcon are joined in the suit by Kyle Brazile, who served as the university's general counsel, and Clarence King, who managed the university's facilities and construction.

The plaintiffs claim that three members of the Board of Trustees – Brian Boulware, James Perry and Maria Lumpkin – "operate the University in a bad-faith manner designed to create fear and intimidation amongst University employees" and held grudges against the plaintiffs which intensified when they reported unlawful conduct.

Over three pages, the suit outlines complaints specific to Williams, including an allegation that he suffered discrimination because of his age and attempts to "smear and otherwise damage his reputation." When Williams complained, according to the suit, Boulware threatened to fire him and have his name removed from the university athletic complex.

The George Williams Athletic Complex opened in 2011. It's a 2,500-seat complex on campus, across from the Emery Gymnasium, that includes a Field Turf playing surface and a world-class track.

Faulcon, who served as interim president from March 2019 until March 2020, claims in the suit that he was pressured by Boulware, Perry and Lumpkin to engage in "age discrimination and other unlawful conduct" as a condition of seeing that contract renewed.

Brazile claims in the suit to have acted as a whistleblower, raising issues about the treatment of Williams and Faulcon among others, and that the named board members sought to remove him because of that.

King claims to have discovered that the university was "potentially misappropriating government funds," but that when he reported those discoveries, Boulware, Perry and Lumpkin moved to terminate his employment.

The plaintiffs are asking for compensatory and punitive damages as a result, the suit says, of "severe and debilitating physical injuries; substantial medical bills and treatment costs; loss of income; loss of earning capacity; pain and suffering; extreme emotional distress; and psychological injury."