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Former UI Vice President Phillip Jones sues UI

BY ABE TEKIPPE and SCOTT RAYNOR | JUNE 11, 2009 7:33 AM

Former UI vice president for Student Services Phillip Jones sued UI President Sally Mason on Wednesday, accusing her of wrongfully firing him after the investigations into an alleged assault in Hillcrest.

The lawsuit, which names the UI, Mason, and the state Board of Regents as defendants, said Jones’ firing jeopardized his relationship with potential employers, injuring him financially “to destroy his reputation built over 40 years of service to the University of Iowa.”

In addition to wrongful termination, the suit, filed in the 6th District Judicial Court, alleges defamation and due-process violation. It quotes Mason’s “widely circulated” comments about Jones: “I am disappointed, ashamed, and embarrassed for how this case was handled,” and “I need complete confidence in my senior staff moving forward and I no longer felt I had that with … Phil Jones.”

More than six months have passed since Jones first filed a claim with the State Appeals Board, and after requesting the board release the claim, Jones is now able to sue the UI, according to Waterloo attorney David Dutton of DBSH Attorneys at Law, the firm representing Jones.

“There really isn’t much to say,” Jones said. “[The lawsuit] is the obvious follow-up to the court claim that was filed in November [with the State Appeals Board].”

UI officials and the regents have refused to comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation.

A UI law professor thinks the three parties named in the suit will likely be tried together.

“One lawsuit, one trial,” Professor Patrick Bauer said.

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Thompson, who may represent all three defendants in the lawsuit, said he hasn’t yet received a copy of the litigation, though he is aware of it.

The lawsuit stems from controversy surrounding an alleged sexual assault that took place in Hillcrest on Oct. 14, 2007.

A female student-athlete reported she had been sexually assaulted by then-Iowa football players Cedric Everson and Abe Satterfield in a Hillcrest dorm room, court records show. The athletics department issued a copy of the investigation to the Office of Equity and Diversity on Oct. 23, which began a formal investigation of the incident.

Eleven months later, the UI, Mason, and the regents hired the St. Louis-based firm Stolar Partnership to investigate the matter. Stolar then released a report criticizing the university’s handling of the investigation, singling out Jones and General Counsel Marcus Mills for their roles.

Reports allege that Mills represented both the alleged victim and the UI, a conflict of interest. Jones was criticized for not adequately reprimanding the accused athletes, nor protecting the woman from students’ harassment following the incident.

On Sept. 23, 2008 — days after the Stolar Report was released — Mason sent Jones a letter telling him he was fired.

Jones refutes the report’s findings in Wednesday’s lawsuit. He claims he was unaware of the allegations against the football players until meeting the alleged victim — a former Hawkeye athlete — in November 2007, after she and her mother met with UI police.

Initially, the woman had reported the alleged attack to the athletics department instead of local law enforcement. Officials reportedly told her and her father to let the athletics department investigate the incident informally.

Furthermore, Jones claims he acted in line with the University Code of Student Life to prevent any harassing behavior against the woman.

In the lawsuit, Jones’ attorneys note that around the time Mason dismissed Jones, she was up for evaluation by the regents concerning her salary and retention. Jones claims he was fired as a response to the pressure put on Mason by the Regents and the press — not due to any mishandling on his part.

Finally, Jones alleges he did not have the opportunity to respond to the Stolar report. His attorneys sent the regents a letter the day after his dismissal, claiming wrongful termination.

Jones is suing for an undisclosed amount in addition to attorney fees and court costs. No trial date has been set.

DI reporter Tyler Lyon contributed to this article.


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