Judge tosses injunction against Olens appointment; attorney may appeal

Sam Olens photographed in the attorney general’s office, which he held from 2011 through October. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

Sam Olens photographed in the attorney general’s office, which he held from 2011 through October. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

A judge recently dismissed an emergency injunction to halt the appointment of Sam Olens as Kennesaw State University's president.

What's at issue is that the university did not conduct a national search for the person who will lead the school out of a corruption scandal that led to the firings of several high-level staff members.

Instead, its sole choice was Olens, Georiga's attorney general. He started Nov. 1.

The attorney who filed the litigation, Stephen Humphreys, said Wednesday that he still has about three weeks to appeal the Nov. 14 decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Tom Campbell.

Campbell wrote in his decision that Olens and the defendants were protected by sovereign immunity — the edict that governmental agencies can't be sued without their consent.

"Plaintiffs have failed to meet their threshold burden of establishing that there has been a waiver of sovereign immunity that would permit the continuation of their litigation," Campbell wrote.

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Humphreys said he will speak with the dozen or so plaintiffs he's representing to see if they want to appeal. For him, the choice is easy.

"It’s a very important decision to be overturned because it creates such a broad scope of sovereign immunity for state officials," he said.

Humphreys said he filed the action on behalf of all students, faculty and alumni of KSU in the "purely political" selection of Olens.

"Kennesaw State (and) the community didn't really care to have a president forced down their throat without any input from Kennesaw State at all," Humphreys said.

Olens is taking over for Dan Papp, who retired in June after auditors said he improperly received more than $577,000 in retirement pay.

Tammy DeMel, KSU's spokeswoman, declined to comment on the judge's decision.

Although the school wasn't named as a defendant in the injunction, the University System of Georgia was.

Charles Sutlive, USG spokesman, gave this statement by email: "We are pleased that the Court has dismissed these baseless claims. The Board of Regents complied with its policies and procedures, as well as the law, when it appointed Sam Olens as president of KSU."

Protesters and other critics feel slighted by the selection of Olens, who they feel has an anti-LGBTQ record of opposing gay marriage and gender-neutral bathrooms.