WACO, Texas (CN) — A former Baylor University athletics employee sued the Pepper Hamilton law firm, claiming he was fired as “collateral damage” after the firm’s nine-month investigation of school leaders’ bungled handling of reports of sexual assaults.
Tom Hill sued the Philadelphia-based law firm and its partners Gina Maisto Smith and Leslie M. Gomez in McLennan County Court on Dec. 13, alleging defamation and negligence.
Baylor’s Board of Regents ordered the external review last year as rape accusations mounted against football players. In May this year, the regents said the review revealed a “fundamental failure” to comply with Title IX.
The regents said Pepper Hamilton found “specific failings within both the football program and Athletics Department leadership,” including that they failed to respond to one football player’s “pattern of sexual violence” and dating violence.
“There are significant concerns about the tone and culture within Baylor’s football program as it relates to accountability for all forms of student athlete misconduct,” the Board of Regents said at the time.
As a result of the findings, Ken Starr was quickly removed as school president. He later resigned as school chancellor and from the law school faculty. Head football coach Art Briles was suspended with intent to terminate. Athletic Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation. He later resigned, as well.
Hill claims Pepper Hamilton failed to interview or interrogate several important witnesses during the investigation, and that it failed to perform its duties “objectively” or with “an open mind.”
“Defendants did not give an appropriate, accurate, complete, and unbiased report of all facts necessary for the university to properly understand the true nature of any potentially inappropriate culture or social environment at the university,” the 3-page complaint states. “As a direct result of the negligence of the defendants in carrying out their contractual obligations, serious collateral damage was done to several university employees, including plaintiff.”
He claims he was “slandered and libeled by [the] defendants.”
Hill worked at the athletics department for 28 years and says he was an “effective, loyal and crucially important” employee, with an “impeccable performance record.”
According to his profile, still on the Baylor Bears website, Hill worked as a graduate assistant, compliance director, assistant track coach and assistant athletic director.
Pepper Hamilton said in a statement that the lawsuit “has no merit” and that it “will vigorously defend” itself.
Hill is seeking actual damages of $60,000 in lost wages. He is represented by Don Riddle in Houston.
After facing harsh criticism for not releasing all of Pepper Hamilton’s findings or a final report, regents in November disclosed a report of “horrifying and painful” gang rapes allegedly committed by football players.
The gang rape report involved Trevon Armstead and Shamycheal Chatman, according to “60 Minutes Sports.” Neither football player has faced criminal charges. Armstead went on to play the 2014 season before being kicked off the team. Chatman later transferred to Sam Houston State University.
Only two Baylor football players have been convicted of sexual assault. Tevin Elliott was sentenced in January 2014 to 20 years in state prison on each of two counts of sexual assault. Sam Ukwuashu was sentenced in August 2015 to 180 days in county jail, 10 years of probation and 400 hours of community service on one count of sexual assault.