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Jones v. McCullum

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

October 7, 2013

ERNEST T. JONES, Plaintiff,
KEYLA McCULLUM, Defendant.


DAVID BRAMLETTE, District Judge.

This cause is before the Court on defendant Keyla McCullum ("McCullum")'s Motion for Summary Judgment (docket entry 20), and plaintiff Ernest T. Jones ("Jones")'s Motion for Rule 56(d) Discovery (docket entry 23), which the Court construes as a response to the motion for summary judgment. Having carefully considered the motion and response, the memoranda and the applicable law, and being fully advised in the premises, the Court finds as follows:

Plaintiff Jones was terminated from employment as head football coach and instructor at Alcorn State University ("ASU") on January 28, 2009. On or about December 10, 2008, ASU provided written notice to the plaintiff that a recommendation was being made to terminate his employment as head football coach, and the basis for the recommendation. On or about December 15, 2008, Jones initiated a grievance hearing in accordance with his employment contract with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning ("MIHL") by submitting a written request for hearing. In so doing, Jones sought review of his employment status before the ASU Grievance Committee ("Committee"). On December 18, 2008, McCullum (legal counsel for the Committee), provided Jones with written correspondence detailing the format, rules and procedures for the administrative hearing.

On January 16, 2009, the plaintiff's due process hearing was held before the Committee. After considering the evidence submitted by both parties, hearing witness testimony, and deliberating, the Committee recommended termination of Jones's employment on grounds of malfeasance and contumacious conduct. The Committee found that Jones improperly opened a bank account in his own name and deposited University funds into the account, without proper authority to do so, and without following proper procedures. Specifically, the Committee found:

When the account was closed on April 23, 2008, there was $2, 506 that was unaccounted for. Coach Ernest Jones was insubordinate in operating the account after he had been told to close the account. Some expenses were supposedly paid from the unaccounted money for the Lettermen's Weekend activities. However, Coach Ernest Jones submitted a request for reimbursement for $4, 049.55 for the Lettermen's Weekend instead of the $2, 506 that was withdrawn. These expenditures did not have prior approval.

Recommendation Letter of ASU Grievance Committee, January 29, 2001, p. 1. The Committee also found that Jones was "uncooperative in assisting the Athletic Department in solving the problem" concerning the unauthorized purchase of athletic goods, or the $11, 334.63 outstanding bill for said goods. Id., p. 2. Jones also failed to attend the scheduled meeting to discuss the situation. Id . The Committee further found that Jones had improperly bound ASU for hotel rooms reserved for a football weekend, without authority to do, and without following proper procedures. Id., p.

3. The Committee found that despite the fact that Jones had previously been informed that any football-related contracts must be signed by either the athletic director, or a combination of both the athletic director's and Jones's signatures, Jones still "contractually bound the university without initiating a requisition or obtaining a purchase order." Id.

The Committee found that ASU had incurred additional expenses as a result of Jones's "disregard for policies and procedures, " and that "there was a lack of departmental control and authority [, ] and self-interest had taken precedence over [the] [U]niversity's interest." Id . Subsequently, the Committee's recommendation to terminate Jones's employment was approved by ASU President George E. Ross, and ratified by the Board of Trustees of MIHL. On February 20, 2009, the plaintiff filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Circuit Court of Claiborne County, Mississippi, contesting the findings of the Committee. The plaintiff's Petition names ASU, ASU Athletic Director Darren J. Hamilton ("Hamilton"), Ross, and MIHL as defendants.

While his petition before the Circuit Court of Claiborne County was pending, Jones filed his action before this Court on May 26, 2010, seeking damages and other relief from ASU, Hamilton, Ross, MIHL, and McCullum. The plaintiff's Complaint contained the following claims:

Count I: violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution;

Count II: (1) violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violation of equal protection pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985; (3) violation of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1986 and 1988;

Count III: claim for injunctive relief against defendant MIHL based on policies and procedures which the plaintiff claims violate his constitutionally protected property rights, privileges and interests, as well as those of other employees of MIHL;

Count IV: breach of employment contract and breach of implied duties of good faith and fair dealing;

Count V: intentional, willful, wanton, grossly negligent and negligent infliction of mental and emotional distress;

Count VI: intentional and willful interference with plaintiff's employment and advantageous relationships, ...

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