To see text of the protective order and other court documents, click here.
Attorneys for Webster University and former Vice President of Finance and Administration David Garafola will be meeting soon to discuss the possibility of settling Garafola’s employment discrimination suit. A settlement conference has been scheduled for Jan. 18, 2012, at the St. Louis County Court Building. The event comes after both parties neglected to attend an earlier settlement conference in October.
Following the October conference, attorneys representing Garafola and Webster entered a joint motion for a protective order, which the judge granted. This protective order will prevent certain documents and processes of the university from being disclosed, except to lawyers and members of the court.
The order protects the following: “student records or information, personnel records or information pertaining to Plaintiff and/or individuals who are not parties to this action, third party documents or information, and documents or information pertaining to bidding processes where competitive or proprietary information of third parties maybe implicated, and any documents which pertain to the historical or actual results of or to the future strategic, geographic, fiscal, or academic planning of the university.”
“What is very likely to happen now is the parties will start discovery. That is why they got a protective order,” Charles Sullivan, professor of Law at Seton Hall University, explained. “A protective order will keep either side from leaking the information to the public. They will exchange documents, they will ask interrogatories, which are written questions, and they will depose each other’s witnesses.”
Sullivan also said, “If they’re both motioning for a protective order, then both of them think there is a public relations problem and they both want to keep that to a minimum.”
Depending on the evidence cultivated in discovery, Sullivan said the case may be thrown out or sent to trial. He also noted Webster and Garafola could settle at anytime.
Webster also amended its answer to Garafola’s most recent claims against the university. The update came after Garafola submitted a motion to strike Webster’s affirmative defenses against Garafola’s accusations. Garafola said the Webster defenses failed to meet the standards of Missouri court law, which states an affirmative defense must contain, “a short and plain statement of the facts show the pleader is entitled to the defense or avoidance.”
Among the amended defenses, Webster alleges Garafola was not let go because of anything the university or its Board of Trustees (BOT) did. Rather, Garafola was terminated because he performed poorly as the vicepresident of finance and administration. The university claims Garafola cannot sue for employment discrimination because he was a contracted employee for one year and the decision to renew his contract rested with Webster University.
In previous court documents, Garafola claimed he was terminated because he reported several incidences of bias and backroom dealing among the BOT. He also alleges he was let go because he pressed the university to take action against Michelle Owens when she committed financial aid fraud against the university. However, Webster claims Garafola played a significant leadership role in many of these matters.
Garafola alleged Webster fired him, among other reasons, because he complained about unethical practices when the building contract for the New Academic Building was awarded to Paric Corporation. When Paric submitted its bid for the contract, it also provided a letter announcing a $100,000 donation to the university. Paric’s president also sits on the BOT.
In the university’s answer, Webster claims word of the award only came to the attention of the BOT after Garafola was “pressed for relevant information and an explanation of certain accounting questions for which he had ultimate responsibility.”
In regards to the Michelle Owens case, Webster said Garafola was leading the investigation into her financial aid fraud. The university also claims it fulfilled its obligations to report the crime to the various authorities.