Investigator sought to examine ex-University System employees’ cases

 An Athens attorney has asked Gov. Nathan Deal to appoint a special attorney general to investigate allegations of criminal activity within the state’s public college system.

Stephen Humphreys made the request to Deal in a recent letter that also asks that the governor direct state Attorney General Sam Olens to investigate the activity, which Humphreys said Olens has not done.

Humphreys represents several former University System of Georgia employees who have filed lawsuits against college administrators and system officials alleging racketeering and corruption. The former employees’ accusations involve various alleged infractions, including withholding of evidence and being pushed out of their jobs for reporting wrongdoing by system officials.

“Every court that has reached a conclusion on Mr. (Humphreys’) frivolous lawsuits has ruled against him,” said Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office. “He has already wasted enough of our lawyers’ time with his nonsensical claims, and we will not respond to his latest attention-seeking gimmick.”

The University System does not comment on pending litigation.

“The allegations in our complaints are extensively documented,” Humphreys said. “In spite of all the documents in our allegations, the attorney general maintains there are no credible allegations, even though they are extensively documented. Those are the main reasons why we asked for a special attorney general to look at this.”

Humphreys’ clients have  gone through legal proceedings at their individual campuses, and various courts have rejected their further conspiracy and retaliation claims.

Humphreys represents:

  • Anthony Tricoli, the former president of Georgia Perimeter College. He filed a racketeering lawsuit against several college and University System officials in May, claiming they conspired to blame him for a $25 million school budget deficit. That deficit led to Tricoli’s eventual resignation in 2012, layoffs of almost 300 faculty and staff, and sanctions against the school by an accreditation agency. Tricoli has said he has been unable to find another job in higher education because of his reputation being purposely sullied in the fallout from Georgia Perimeter’s financial problems. The case is pending in DeKalb Superior Court.
  • Denise Caldon, a former executive assistant to the president at Macon State College, which has since merged with Middle Georgia College to become Middle Georgia State College. In her whistleblower suit against the University System, Caldon alleged that she was released after she refused to sign off on falsified personal leave reports for the president. Caldon unsuccessfully appealed her termination and lost the whistleblower case. A Fulton County judge sealed depositions in that case that Caldon says would prove wrongdoing by system officials. She has unsuccessfully appealed several times to have the documents unsealed. The Attorney General’s Office has objected to unsealing the documents in the case.
  • Michael Brandenburg, who was fired from Georgia Medical College in 2005. The school says Brandenburg was dismissed after making a derogatory comment about a patient. But Brandenburg claims his firing was in retaliation for reporting a conflict of interest by a member of the Board of Regents who had a contract with the college. His case seeking a termination review is pending, Humphreys said.
  • Dezso Benedek, a professor at the University of Georgia. Benedek filed a lawsuit accusing Olens and UGA administrators of falsifying evidence and trying to revoke his tenure because of his criticism of former UGA President Michael Adams. He filed a similar lawsuit in 2013. A judge dismissed some of the claims in the first suit and sent others to a lower court, and it was later dismissed. The initial suit is being appealed. The second lawsuit includes racketeering or corruption claims against the system, Humphreys said.

Humphreys’ clients are seeking compensatory damages, including lost wages and attorney fees. Punitive damages against individual USG officials are also being sought in some cases, the attorney said.

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