Western answers lawsuit

Joe Lord

Western has struck back in the first major lawsuit against it this year.

The university filed an answer Monday to a lawsuit that accuses it of wrongfully firing an office associate in Student Disability Services.

The answer disputes most of the allegations made in the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of Anita Joplin-Johnson on March 6. She is asking to get her job back and to receive punitive damages.

“We deny that the claim has any validity,” said Greg Stivers, the attorney representing Western.

In the answer, the university asks for the lawsuit to be dismissed.

Joplin-Johnson was fired Dec. 18 after working for Western for less than a year.

In the suit, Joplin-Johnson said she was released after she complained to university officials about the job performance of Matt Davis, director of Student Disability Services and her former boss.

The suit said Davis spent much of his work time on personal matters, including “chatting online, e-mailing, ordering concert tickets and sports tickets” and surfing the Internet.

Joplin-Johnson complained several times about Davis to Huda Melky, Equal Opportunity Compliance officer, and other administrators, the suit said.

The suit said Joplin-Johnson also told a student, who was dissatisfied with Student Health Services, to complain about Davis and Melky to Provost Barbara Burch or Gene Tice, vice president for Student Affairs and campus services.

Stivers would not comment on details of the lawsuit. Neither Joplin-Johnson or her attorney, Steven Downey, could be reached for comment yesterday.

Western and Joplin-Johnson have only begun to get through the lawsuit, Stivers said. Both sides are now in discovery, when documents switch hands and depositions will be taken.

“I would think it may take as much as a year before the case is ready for trial,” Stivers said. “Right now, we haven’t even scratched the surface.”

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]