Suspended Winthrop president to file lawsuit against university, trustees

Posted June 17, 2014 4:40 pm | Filed under Featured, Local News

New documents released Tuesday outline the reasons why Winthrop University trustees issued a notice of termination to President Jamie Comstock Williamson. In a late development, Williamson’s attorney has fired back with a five-page rebuttal and word of a future lawsuit.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by WRHI, university spokesman Jeff Perez released a copy of a hand-delivered letter to Williamson from board chair Kathy Bigham that outlined four reasons for her dismissal: Abuse of authority; Providing false information to university trustees; Providing “false, misleading and delayed information to others; and Inappropriate and unprofessional behavior.

The three-page letter claims Williamson violated the S.C. Ethics Act and the university’s nepotism policy in hiring her husband on as special counsel for nine months. Larry Williamson has since exited the post and returned the $27,000 salary paid by the Office of the President.

The letter alleges that Williamson provided “false and misleading” information to others resulting in false and misleading information published in local media, that she “intentionally delayed disseminating important information to faculty and staff to avoid untimely embarrassment,” and has “repeatedly engaged in explosive, berating, demeaning, hostile, condescending rude and other unprofessional behavior.”

“Your staff is fearful on how you will respond to information they provide to you in the context of their jobs,” Bigham wrote.

In the last six weeks, WRHI has been the first to broadcast and published a three-part investigative series on raises for the university’s executive staff and information on the $2,306 expense incurred fromWilliamson changing her name. Similar stories have since surfaced outlining a 33 percent tuition increase for summer classes and the hiring of Williamson’s husband as special counsel.

In a written response to the Bigham’s claims obtained by WRHI, Williamson’s attorney Bev Carroll wrote, “It seems apparent that some Board members have their own agenda and are not pleased to deal with a woman who is direct in her approach.”

“The method in which this matter was handled was designed to deprive Dr. Williamson of an opportunity to address any and all concerns,” held by the Board of Trustees, Carroll wrote. “You have left Dr. Williamson with no other choice to pursue legal remedy.”

“A lawsuit will be filed against the Board of Trustees, the individual Board members and Winthrop University seeking damages for breach of contract, slander and defamation,” Carroll wrote.

ATTACHMENT: Notice of Basis for Cause and Termination written by board chairwoman Kathy Bigham

ATTACHMENT: Response to Bigham’s letter written by attorney Bev Carroll on behalf of Jamie Williamson

ATTACHMENT: Winthrop University President Jamie Comstock Williamson’s signed contract