From the Baton Rouge Advocate: Former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter was grilled in state court Monday about the disappearance of furniture and other items from his office and a suite at A.W. Mumford Stadium just days before his June 30 departure.
Slaughter, who is suing the Southern University Board of Supervisors for past-due wages, testified that the only items he took were those he personally purchased.
But an attorney for Southern’s board accused Slaughter of taking property that the private Southern University System Foundation bought.
“Not only did Dr. Slaughter take things from the university, he used the Southern University Foundation as his own personal piggy bank,’’ Lewis Unglesby, who represents the Southern board, argued during a trial of Slaughter’s lawsuit.
Slaughter attorney Jill Craft rested her case late Monday after calling Slaughter and one other witness, Frances Smith, former assistant and counsel to the president.
Smith testified she saw a “parade’’ of miscellaneous Southern employees go through Slaughter’s office in the days immediately after his exit, but never saw them take anything.
State District Judge Tim Kelley recessed the trial until Wednesday.
Slaughter sued the Southern board on Sept. 4, claiming he is owed more than $100,000 in unpaid leave time. It is one of several lawsuits he has filed against the board.
Unglesby has said the only money withheld from Slaughter’s final paycheck was more than $20,000 because of missing office furniture and other items. Some missing items
included window dressings from the president’s office as well as a mounted light fixture from the lavatory in the sitting room, he said.
Unglesby challenged Slaughter on Monday over items missing from his office at the J.S. Clark Administration Building and from the president’s suite at Mumford Stadium.
Slaughter acknowledged that the foundation, at his request, picked up the $3,600 tab for the moving and storage of items he wanted removed from the university, items Slaughter said belonged to him.
Craft defended Slaughter, arguing that some members of the Board of Supervisors also had the foundation pay for certain things.
As for other items reported missing from the president’s office and the president’s suite, Slaughter said he did not know where the items are.
“Where’s the coffee table?’’ Unglesby asked.
“I don’t know, sir,’’ Slaughter replied.
“Where’s the sofa?’’ Unglesby inquired further.
“I don’t know, sir,’’ Slaughter repeated.
“Where’s the rug?’’ Unglesby asked.
“I can’t answer that,’’ Slaughter said.
Slaughter said he has never received an itemized list of items the university is looking for. “I think I read it in the newspaper,’’ he testified.
Craft said some of the items reported missing turned up in other areas of the campus, including the Center for Cultural Heritage Studies.
Craft said Slaughter’s annual compensation was $468,000. That amount included a base salary of $220,000; a $200,000 salary supplement from the foundation; a housing allowance of $36,000; and a $12,000 vehicle allowance.
Slaughter served as Southern’s president for more than three years. The board voted in March to remove him from office when his two-year contract extension ended June 30.
Slaughter was replaced by interim President Kassie Freeman while the university conducts a national search for a new system president.
Slaughter is seeking punitive damages and his job back in another lawsuit against the board.
MORE SLAUGHTER COVERAGE FROM THE BATON ROUGE ADVOCATE:
A state judge gave former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter a severe tongue-lashing this afternoon in rejecting Slaughter’s claim against the school for past-due wages.
District Judge Tim Kelley ruled that Slaughter, who was seeking more than $100,000 in unpaid annual leave and sick leave, “is entitled to nothing’’ said he was “shocked’’ by what he called Slaughter’s abuse of authority and power while president.
Kelley also labeled Slaughter’s trial testimony “the least credible’’ he has heard in his 13 years on the bench and added that a “very, very dark era’’ in the university’s history passed when Slaughter left office June 30.
Before Slaughter left the school, Kelley said, he emptied his office and the president’s suite at A.W. Mumford Stadium of “just about everything that wasn’t nailed down.’’
Slaughter and his attorney, Jill Craft, said the judge’s decision will be appealed.
Lewis Unglesby, who represents the Southern University Board of Supervisors, said the judge hit the nail on the head.
Shortly before Kelley handed down his ruling, Unglesby referred to Slaughter in court as “King Ralph’’ and “the Grinch who stole Christmas’’ – the latter a reference to a light fixture that disappeared from Slaughter’s office the weekend before he left.
The Southern Board of Supervisors voted earlier this year not to renew Slaughter’s two-year contract extension that expired at the end of June.