Explicit lawsuit filed against Alabama State University

Posted by: Jennifer Oravet - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The allegations are serious. Multiple claims of sexual and racial misconduct, coupled with workplace hostility and retaliation: all spelled out in a 49 page federal lawsuit.

The target: Alabama State University, and it's Chief Operations Officer, John Knight.

"Personally I was shocked.  If some of the allegations come out to be true, they are very serious allegations." says Knight.

But Knight sees more to this lawsuit than just the three plaintiffs, Jacqueline Weatherly, Cynthia Williams and Lydia Burkhaulter, who claim their civil rights were violated.

"It may be more like a power struggle in the university. There are disgruntled former board members have taken an active role to destroy everything possible with the university."

Knight, who is also a powerful state legislator, calls this lawsuit a political ploy pushed during an election year.

"I just couldn't believe some of the allegations that were in the lawsuit by some of the former employees. I couldn't believe some of the things they allege. Its embarrassing to have that put in a lawsuit.

Embarrassing or not, the lawsuit alleges confrontations between Knight and the plaintiffs; and, in other instances, the Associate Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Lavonette Bartley.

Knight confirms, "The ones that pertain to me are false."

WSFA 12 News contacted the Alabama Education Association about the lawsuit to see if the plaintiffs had notified the organization of the alleged incidents.

A.E.A.'s Associate Executive Secretary, Dr. Joe Reed, confirms A.E.A. is funding the lawsuit, supporting the women, who are A.E.A members. While he declined an on-camera interview, Reed says this is no different than ASU defending it's employees.

"Its more than just a legal matter, its about smearing the name of ASU and me in particular."

Now the claims and charges are headed Federal Court.

WSFA 12 News contacted Alabama State University Trustee Board Chairmen, Elton Dean, for the Board's reaction to the allegations cited in the lawsuit, and if the outcome of the lawsuit could affect Knight's employment.  Dean did not return the calls.

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