Ave Maria Profs File Whistle-Blower Suit
Three suspended professors at Ave Maria School of Law have filed a whistle-blower lawsuit against the Catholic institution, its president and dean, and the chairman of its board of governors, among other defendants. It alleges wrongful discharge, breach of contract and tortious interference with advantageous business relationships.
Stephen Safranek, Edward Lyons and Phil Pucillo also assert claims under a Michigan whistle-blower statute. In support of these claims, they contended in their complaint (PDF) (copy provided by the Wall Street Journal) that they were disciplined by law school administrators because they “reported or were about to report violations or suspected violations of state and federal laws, regulations, and rules governing the independence of the corporate form and breach (of) fiduciary duty/conflict of interest.” These reports, according to the complaint, had been or were to be made to the American Bar Association, the state attorney general and other unspecified law enforcement agencies.
The litigation apparently ups the ante in a contentious situation between some faculty and the law school administration that has been ongoing for some time. As discussed in earlier ABAJournal.com posts, there has been a faculty revolt over issues including a planned move of the law school from its current Michigan campus to the new town of Ave Maria in southwest Florida and Christian legal academics have rallied in support of embattled colleagues at Ave Maria. An alumni board, too, recently sided with faculty, issuing a vote of no confidence in the school’s leadership.
However, Bernard Dobranski, the school’s president and dean, said in a written statement that Ave Maria administrators “are confident that the actions of the School of Law were both proper and legal and we look forward to the court coming to this same conclusion,” reports the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.
In an earlier interview with ABAJournal.com, Dobranski said “a small group of disgruntled faculty members who don’t want to see the law school relocate” have magnified academic freedom and governance issues. Although he couldn’t discuss personnel issues, he said critics outside the institution don’t know “what’s going on here.”