Lawsuit filing: Interim BU president told official to delete emails, Baylor responds

Dr. David Garland. (Baylor University/file)
By  | 

WACO, Texas (KWTX) Baylor University has issued a response to claims that Interim Baylor President David Garland directed an athletic department official to delete emails the day before the first Jane Doe lawsuits were filed against the university.

Baylor University has "conducted an in-depth electronic review to determine the context of the email from Interim President David Garland that has been mischaracterized."

The review determined that Interim Athletic Director Todd Patulski sent an email to Garland on June 14, 2016 "with a detailed report on a recent Big 12 meeting which included confidential information on Big 12 expansion issues," the statement said.

"Sixteen minutes later, Dr. Garland sent Mr. Patulski an email response thanking him and asking him to delete the email."

"Baylor will discuss these facts more fully in our reply to be filed with the Court.”

Previous Report:

Interim Baylor President David Garland directed at least one athletic department official to delete emails on June 14, 2016, the day before the first of a series of Jane Doe lawsuits were filed against the university, according to a filing Wednesday, a claim the school disputes.

“This month, plaintiffs obtained an email wherein Interim President David Garland wrote a high-level Baylor athletics official the following: ‘Thanks [name redacted]. I would erase the emails. David,’” the filing by Waco lawyer Jim Dunnam and Houston lawyer Chad W. Dunn says.

The recipient, identified only as a “senior administrator who was directly involved in the sexual assault investigations and a member of the Sexual Assault Task Force Committee,” noted the date and wrote, “Interim President sent this email to me. No follow up communication transpired to this particular email. Due to the unusual nature, I kept a copy,” according to the filing.

“The timing of Garland’s email raises many questions,” the filing says.

The email was sent the day before the first of the Jane Doe suits was filed on June 15, 2016, and more than three months after Jasmin Hernandez filed the first in a series of suits against the school stemming from Baylor’s handling of sexual assault reports.

Hernandez settled her suit with the school in August 2017.

The filing also cites an Aug. 28, 2015 between Reagan Ramsower, the school’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, and Brian Nicholson, the vice president of facilities and operations, which suggested that now former Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford was “about to talk about shredding documents.”

The filing says nothing produced by Baylor explains what Ramsower was concerned about, but suggests it may have been a file pertaining to a rape.

Baylor’s outside counsel dismissed the claims, however.

“The plaintiffs’ attorneys have distorted facts and timelines through various court filings in this case, and in this specific instance, leap to wildly unsubstantiated conclusions based on one vague email,” Baylor attorney Lisa A. Brown said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon.

Brown said the email in the plaintiff’s filing wasn’t improperly withheld, but “was not included in the current discovery production of Pepper Hamilton materials because it was never part of the Pepper Hamilton collection of electronic materials.”

“The plaintiffs’ court filing mischaracterizes both the emails and text messages that they use to support their filing. During discovery in this case, plaintiffs asked Baylor to conduct a tailored search using specific terms for four particular custodians. They requested a search for words related to “deletion.” Baylor, in full cooperation and responsiveness, searched all the documents currently in Baylor’s counsel’s possession specifically for those terms provided by plaintiffs. We did not retrieve any e-mails that indicated deletion or destruction by Baylor,” Brown said.

“The Garland email that the plaintiffs reference does not contain any of the words that they requested Baylor to search for. Additionally, the recipient of the Garland email was not one of the four custodians that we were asked to search.”

“To date, Baylor has produced more than 1.5 million pages of documents as part of the discovery process, which is ongoing at this time. To make such broad unsubstantiated accusations in the middle of discovery is troubling. Baylor and its counsel have complied with all court orders and rules and have not improperly withheld emails or any other evidence, and we look forward to responding aggressively and in specific detail with the court,” Brown said.

Baylor issued a second statement Wednesday night in which the university said it had "conducted an in-depth electronic review to determine the context of the email from Interim President David Garland that has been mischaracterized."

The review determined that Interim Athletic Director Todd Patulski sent an email to Garland on June 14, 2016 "with a detailed report on a recent Big 12 meeting which included confidential information on Big 12 expansion issues," the statement said.

"Sixteen minutes later, Dr. Garland sent Mr. Patulski an email response thanking him and asking him to delete the email."

"Baylor will discuss these facts more fully in our reply to be filed with the Court.”

Dunnam and Dunn, in a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, said "People only make up excuses for hiding something when there is something to hide."

"Baylor directly and unequivocally stated that there were no documents that 'implied, expressly instructed, or showed affirmative action that an employee of Baylor directed, instructed, suggested, referenced, or mentioned the deletion, purge, removal, or alteration of any document or information . . .' To now claim that “erase the emails” does not imply or suggest getting rid of evidence would be laughable if this were not such a serious matter," the statement said.

On May 26, 2016 regents released a 13-page findings of fact statement and a list of 105 recommendations from the Pepper Hamilton law firm, and announced the firing of head football coach Art Briles, the reassignment of Chancellor and President Ken Starr, and the suspension of athletic director Ian McCaw.

Four days later, on May 30, McCaw resigned saying he needed to step down in order to help the university heal and move forward.

McCaw is now the athletic director at Liberty University in Lynchburg. Va.

Starr resigned from his position as chancellor on June 1.

He severed all ties with the university in August 2016.

In April 2017, the university announced that Dr. Linda A. Livingstone would become the school’s 15th president, and the first woman to serve as the university’s president in Baylor's 172-year history.

The next month, a year after the scathing report was issued, regents announced "structural completion" of the 105 recommendations included in the law firm’s report.

Then in August 2017, Livingstone announced that Ramsower, who was at the center of the controversy over the school’s handling of Title IX sexual assault complaints was stepping down as the school’s senior vice president and chief operating officer.

He will transition out of the position at the end of the school’s current fiscal year on May 31, Livingstone said.