By Olivia Krauth–
A U of L conflict of interest officer has accused President James Ramsey of “intentionally and knowingly” committing official misconduct, stating Ramsey is skirting conflict of interest rules.
First reported by The Courier-Journal, Robin Wilcox filed a whistleblower lawsuit Feb. 29. Wilcox alleged Ramsey knew about the misconduct over a year before he announced it to the university. Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Dr. David Dunn and VP of IT Priscilla Hancock, along with a former U of L official, are under investigation by the FBI for misuse of grant money, which was announced Dec. 9, 2015. Dunn and Hancock have been on paid leave since.
The suit said Ramsey knew about the misconduct allegations since Dec. 2012, but did not tell the university until summer 2014. If Wilcox’s timeline is true, Dunn made over $2.1 million between when he claims Ramsey was notified in Dec. 2012 and being placed on leave Dec. 2015, while Hancock made about $904,608.
U of L has paid Dunn around $160,312 and Hancock $67,845 since the FBI investigation became public.
According to the suit, Wilcox was included in an email from former Provost Shirley Willihnganz “in which the Provost stated ‘I just spoke to Dr. Dunn, and spoke to Priscilla Hancock earlier today about a company (Health DataStream) (HDS) that David and Russ Bessette are starting, with Priscilla will have a small percentage in…'” Wilcox claims he began a Conflict Of Interest file at that point.
The suit mentions a Dec. 2012 meeting where Willihnganz tried to stop Wilcox from questioning “potential fiscal misconduct” by Dunn and Hancock, saying, “do not take this the wrong way Robin…but these issues are above your pay grade.” A later Dec. 2012 email from Willihnganz said she had told Ramsey about the situation and they were discussing the appropriate path to take.
Wilcox said neither Dunn nor Hancock disclosed a COI in Health DataStream, the company in question in the ongoing FBI investigation.
The suit also said Ramsey wrongly said he only needed to report his conflicts of interest to the board of trustees, which U of L general counsel Leslie Strohm later debunked. When Wilcox needed to produce conflict of interest forms in Oct. 2014, Ramsey did not have one on file. Ramsey filed a COI form on Dec. 22, 2015, with a comment that someone in the compliance office told him he did not to file one.
Wilcox said Chief Financial Officer Harlan Sands told him his staff and he was “too harsh.” When asked for comment, Sands directed the Cardinal to U of L spokesperson John Karman. Karman told multiple news sources U of L officials had not seen the lawsuit yet, and does not comment on pending litigation.
“I have found myself in the unfortunate position of working for an institution in which I have become aware of misconduct that my employing institution and superiors have refused to address,” Wilcox said. “I cannot turn a blind eye to these instances.”
Wilcox began as a deputy compliance officer in 2006, being promoted to conflict of interest officer in 2012. Wilcox said U of L forced him to resign from his job after he tried to enforce compliance rules in multiple situations. Wilcox claims the environment was “so hostile and abusive” he was unable to do his job, effectively leaving his position on March 11.
“When I approached the administration on December 10, 2015 with documented falsehoods presented by the University’s highest officer, something I was obligated to bring forth as the Constitutional Compliance Officer, I was not only ignored; I was interrogated and my own integrity and work was questioned,” Wilcox said in his resignation letter, which was attached to the 18-page lawsuit.
The suit claims Wilcox faced “retaliation, interference with business relations, defamation and false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Wilcox claims he “was advised by a colleague that efforts were being taken through the President’s office to discredit” him in January. The suit mentions multiple instances where Wilcox believed his job was in jeopardy and people were concerned about his future at U of L.
There are five counts in the suit: violation of Kentucky’s whistleblower statute, violation of Kentucky Civil Rights Act, constructive discharge, outrageous conduct and official misconduct in the first degree/malfeasance.
The board of trustees meets March 1, and the agenda states they will go into executive session immediately “to discuss pending litigation.” Karman said the meeting was scheduled in the “last week or two.” Karman said the meeting would be almost entirely executive session, and he did not know what they would discuss.