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Smith’s lawsuit against ASU set to begin Monday

ALBANY, Ga. — Cassandra Smith’s whistle-blower lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Regents and Albany State University President Everette Freeman and Vice President for Academic Affairs Abiodun Ojemakinde is scheduled to begin Monday in Fulton County Superior Court.

Smith was the university’s assistant vice president for research and sponsored programs at ASU from March of 2009 until her termination in May 2011. In that position, she was responsible for securing federal funds as well as monitoring programs for compliance.

Her suit claims she was subject to retaliatory action from ASU administrators and was eventually improperly terminated after bringing to light claims of alleged federal grant mismanagement and malfeasance by the university.

The allegations revolve around the alleged misappropriation of some nearly $5 million in three federal grants and one state award.

Smith is claiming whistle-blower protection under the Georgia Code dealing with complaints from public employees as to fraud, waste and abuse in state operations. One section states: “No public employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any policy or practice preventing a public employee from disclosing a violation of or noncompliance with a law, rule, or regulation to either a supervisor or a government agency.”

Smith’s suit says the problems began to come to light in February 2010 when former ASU HCOP (Health Career Opportunity Programs) Coordinator Taryn Thomas made an initial complaint of misappropriation of funds within the program.

Smith said she brought the complaint to the attention of Freeman, Ojemakende, ASU Human Resources Director Steve Grant and Assistant to the Vice President for Fiscal Affairs Carl Threatt.

Two weeks later, Smith reported alleged misuse of funds in the NASA Science Engineering and Space Academy.

It was at this point, Smith contends, that the retaliatory actions began, and on May 12, 2011, she was asked to resign. When Smith refused, she says, she was terminated a week later. She then filed suit.

On Nov. 13, 2012, the state attorney general’s office sent Smith a letter offering her $200,000 to settle the case, dismiss her suit and release the defendants from all claims. Smith refused the offer.

She is seeking reinstatement to her position, recovery of lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages and attorney’s fees.

Calls to Smith’s attorney, Ralph Goldberg, seeking comment were not returned. ASU referred all inquiries to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Her case is Cassandra Smith v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia et al., Superior Court of Fulton County, Civil Action No. 2011CV207318.

Comments

Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

Ms. Smith could purchase a 7-Series BMW with oil changes for life and have $50K for lifetime nails and hair braiding with $200,000. I think she should take the deal.

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

Everybody drives a BMW eh Sister? Ha! Ha! Ha!

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

Actually, there are a number of folkses driving either Lexus or Mercedes too, VSU. Sister was giving the short answer. :) Smith will need more than $200K since lawyers will suck the life out of the check like a Chupacabra on steroids before it gets to her, making a future of nails and braids less likely.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

Don't forget them Jaguars, y'all! That's the ride of choice for Messrs. Murfree and Sabbs.

There are alot more BMWs and Mercedes rolling around this town than there are people who SHOULD be able to afford them. And that's a naked fact. How do they do it? I'd really like to know.

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dingleberry 1 year, 4 months ago

When food, housing, medical care, cell phones, and all else that costs you and I are free, it isn't too hard to see how any car can be bought, Ruby. And of course income of the poverty profession is in some cases supplemented by the sale of non-medicinal drugs and perhaps even prostitution of all things. I have also heard, heaven forbid, some with big cars and jobs falsify documents to get monies from the unsuspecting and trusting government.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

An offer of $200,000 in this case sounds like there is more than smoke involved. ASU is no paragon of virtue when it comes to using public money and this one needs to play out. I read documentation on this one awhile back which raised questions on what ASU has been doing. Perhaps a case of friends helping friends with public money. It is worth a look--in my book. Show us the money, how it was used, and whether it was abused.

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Trustbuster 1 year, 4 months ago

I thought ASU was unsinkable. I wondered how this historical black college was using tapayer funds.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

I hate it public funds will be used to pay the settlement or judgment, but corruption needs to be exposed. If the charges are true I wish her luck.

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athens 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you Mrs Smith. Such integrity. Thank you.

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iko 1 year, 4 months ago

We need more whistle blowers, not fewer, idiots.

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dingleberry 1 year, 4 months ago

Certainly agree as long as the complaints are motivated by getting a wrong corrected rather than trying to get money for blowing with no basis. This one should be interesting since I think it was investigated by the Board of Regents or such and nothing notable was found.

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RedEric 1 year, 4 months ago

ASU accused of misappropriating government funds. Graduates of ASU accused of misappropriating government funds. Could be a pattern here. Oh, but what the hey, it is only money. We get a check in the mail every month.

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Spike 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't know Ms. Smith BUT I do know Dr. Freeman. I suspect that Ms. Smith didn't do her job very well and when confronted instead of doing what she was supposed to do started pointing fingers at others..........That doesn't sound familiar......

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