Former SGA president adds retaliation to lawsuit

SGA met on March 20 to discuss upcoming events on campus and to finalize bills from the previous meeting. President of SGA Andi Dahmer gave a report at the meeting on current events on campus and upcoming bills to be passed at later meetings.

Nicole Ziege

New evidence has been filed in former Student Government Association President Andi Dahmer’s lawsuit against WKU, with Dahmer requesting to add retaliation among other allegations in an amended complaint to the case.

Dahmer filed a lawsuit against WKU, President Timothy Caboni,Assistant General Counsel Andrea Anderson and Director of Student Activities Charley Pride on Aug. 31, 2018. She is seeking $75,000 in damages. In an amendment to her initial complaint, Dahmer claimed she was retaliated against by Caboni for reporting the sex discrimination committed against her by him and WKU in her lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Dahmer cited verbal, mental and emotional abuse she claims she suffered from the “tortious conduct” of WKU, Caboni, Anderson and Pride. She also accused the defendants of discriminating against her based on sex and not following university procedures such as the “Discrimination and Harassment Policy.”

The Herald previously reported Dahmer’s harassment allegations, which she came forward with on April 24, 2018. She said she experienced some of the harassment from eight SGA senators, including instances of the senators cursing at her in her office, calling her derogatory names and anonymously exchanging group messages with each other wishing her physical harm.

WKU denied Dahmer’s lawsuit allegations of sex discrimination and denied that Dahmer “suffered from a hostile educational environment” and “suffered sexual harassment and threats at the hands of WKU students in her tenure as SGA president,” according to court documents.

Dahmer made a motion to amend her original complaint against WKU, Caboni, Anderson and Pride because additional facts and information were discovered since its filing, “allowing for certain causes of action to be made against the defendants,” according to court documents.

While applying for WKU’s Rhodes Scholarship, Dahmer claimed she asked Caboni to endorse her for the scholarship, as every applicant requires recommendations. She claimed Audra Jennings, director of the WKU Office of Scholar Development, told her via text message that Caboni would endorse her, according to court documents.

A screenshot of text messages between Dahmer and Jennings was submitted as evidence. In the messages, Jennings is seen telling Dahmer about Caboni’s expected recommendation. The conversation took place on Sept. 10, 2018.

Dahmer claimed Caboni withdrew his recommendation for the scholarship “without any reason or explanation.” When Dahmer emailed Jennings about Caboni’s recommendation withdrawal on Sept. 28, 2018, Jennings declined to provide a reason to Dahmer, according to court documents.

“I cannot discuss the matter with you,” Jennings wrote in an email to Dahmer, as seen in email screenshots submitted as evidence. “You should direct questions to your attorney.”

Jennings did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment.

Bob Skipper, director of media relations, provided a statement to the Herald regarding the new allegations in Dahmer’s complaint:

“While we don’t comment on ongoing litigation, we are confident that the District Court will ultimately find in our favor and rule that WKU complied with Title IX when it promptly and thoroughly investigated Ms. Dahmer’s Title IX claim and that Ms. Dahmer was never denied any educational opportunities and benefits at WKU,” according to the statement.

Lindsay Cordes, Dahmer’s attorney, said she “never received any information nor had any communication from WKU” about Caboni’s recommendation withdrawal. Dahmer cited Jennings’ response as “reason to believe” Caboni withdrew his agreed endorsement in retaliation for Dahmer’s filing the lawsuit, according to court documents.

“We think that’s evidence of retaliation,” Cordes said.

Dahmer cited Caboni’s alleged retaliation against her as a violation of Title IX.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law part of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in universities that receive federal funding (the vast majority of schools). The scope of Title IX was expanded by former President Barack Obama to mandate universities combat sexual harassment, including sexual violence, as previously reported.

Title IX also prohibits retaliation for filing a Title IX complaint or for advocating for rights protected by Title IX, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

In the amended complaint, Dahmer also alleged WKU and Anderson failed to complete a follow-up investigation after being made aware of the hostile environment Dahmer was experiencing while serving in SGA. This complaint against Anderson specifically came from an email she sent Dahmer on Oct. 31, 2017, where Anderson asked to meet with Dahmer to discuss the alleged harassment.

“It has come to my attention, through a couple of different sources, that you may have personally experienced some inappropriate behavior of a sex or gender-based nature,” Anderson wrote in the email to Dahmer, which was submitted as evidence in the lawsuit. “Please let me know when would be best to meet to discuss this report.”

In her amended complaint, Dahmer claimed she called Anderson back and “never heard anything.” Dahmer’s complaint cited that as evidence of WKU and Anderson “failing to perform” any follow-up or investigation despite receiving reports of the alleged harassment from “a couple of different sources,” according to court documents.

Anderson did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment.

Ena Demir, counsel for WKU, Caboni, Anderson and Pride, gave a statement regarding the new allegations in Dahmer’s lawsuit.

“WKU appropriately responded to all of Ms. Dahmer’s complaints and we are confident that the District Court will ultimately find in WKU’s favor and rule that WKU complied with Title IX when it promptly and thoroughly investigated Ms. Dahmer’s Title IX claims and that Ms. Dahmer was never denied any educational opportunities and benefits at WKU,” according to the statement.

After Dahmer’s motion to file the amended complaint was approved by the U.S. District Court on Jan. 29, WKU filed its response on Feb. 19. It requested the court deny Dahmer’s amended complaint because it claimed the defendants would be “unduly prejudiced at this early stage in litigation” if she amended her initial complaint, according to court documents.

WKU denied Dahmer’s allegation of Anderson and the university failing to perform any follow-up or investigation. WKU argued the allegation was founded on “bad faith” from Dahmer because Anderson followed up with Dahmer on “a couple of occasions” in October and November in 2017, according to court documents.

“Further, [Dahmer] testified that she was not ready to make any kind of complaint at that time,” according to WKU’s response to Dahmer’s amended complaint, referring to the time Anderson contacted Dahmer.

“This amendment contains factual contentions and allegations which have no evidentiary support and have not been specifically identified to have evidentiary support following review of [Dahmer]’s deposition and relevant emails,” according to WKU’s response.

Referring to Dahmer’s amended allegations of retaliation against Caboni, WKU argued they were “speculative at best” and that Dahmer had “plenty of opportunity” to add the amendment earlier in discovery to prevent prejudice against the defendants, according to court documents.

WKU also argued in its response any amended complaint made against Anderson and Caboni “must fail” because Title IX “does not impose individual liability for retaliation claims.”

On March 12, Dahmer replied to WKU’s response, arguing WKU did not include the entirety of Dahmer’s testimony when denying her amended allegations against Anderson.

According to court documents, during Dahmer’s deposition, she testified she was “too scared” to report the alleged harassment and hostile behavior she was experiencing at the time Anderson contacted her in 2017.

Regarding WKU’s response to Dahmer’s retaliation allegations against Caboni, Dahmer argued the email evidence between Jennings and Dahmer proved Dahmer should be allowed to “conduct discovery on this issue.”

“Then, if [WKU] truly feels [Dahmer] has no evidence or proof of this claim, it can move for the claim to be dismissed. […] However, preventing [Dahmer] from even making this claim in the first place, when she clearly has proof of what a jury could find was evidence of retaliation, would be unfairly prejudicial to [Dahmer] and in conflict with the standing presumption that amendments of complaints should be freely given,” according to Dahmer’s reply to WKU’s response.

On March 13, WKU filed a motion to strike Dahmer’s reply to WKU’s response from the court docket, arguing Dahmer’s counsel did not provide a response to motion within the required 21 days.

“[Dahmer] should not be awarded for her failure to abide by the local rules of the Western District of Kentucky – to allow a disregard for the rules would render these rules essentially meaningless,” according to WKU’s motion to strike.

Dahmer’s deadline to respond to WKU’s motion to strike is April 3, according to the court’s deadlines and hearings.

News reporter Nicole Ziege can be reached at 270-745-6011 and nicole. [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @NicoleZiege.