Whistleblower lawsuit against University of Louisville alleges retaliation by New Penn State President Bendapudi
Neeli Bendapudi speaks during a press conference Dec. 9, 2021 at the Penn State Hotel and Conference Center following her nomination as Penn State’s 19th President. Photo of Geoff Rushton | StateCollege.com
A recent lawsuit against the University of Louisville alleges that school president Neeli Bendapudi, who is now president of Penn State, retaliated against a high-ranking employee for reporting the extortion attempt. of a former assistant basketball coach to law enforcement.
Amy Shoemaker, former assistant general counsel and associate director of athletics at Louisville, says she was demoted after Bendapudi became angry that Shoemaker informed the university’s police chief in 2021 of the threat of the former men’s basketball assistant coach Dino Gaudio to head coach Chris Mack to expose alleged recruiting violations if he did not receive a lump sum of 18 months salary as compensation during his dismissal.
Gaudio eventually pleaded guilty to a federal charge of attempted extortion.
The lawsuit also alleged that Bendapudi’s chief of staff, Michael Wade Smith, who now holds the same position at Penn State, told Shoemaker that she shouldn’t have gone to the police but instead should have let Bendapudi decide what to do. TO DO.
Bendapudi, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, served as UofL president from April 2018 until she was named Penn State’s next leader in December 2021. She officially took office at Penn State in May.
“My commitment to ethical conduct and treating people the right way has been unwavering throughout my career,” Bendapudi said in a statement provided by the university. “The teams I have built in several institutions reflect these core values. I have and will continue to lead with integrity and have complete confidence in my Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff to do the same.
Penn State Chairman of the Board Matthew Schuyler said in a provided statement that “we would not comment” on a lawsuit against another school.
“The Board of Directors has complete confidence in the leadership of Chairman Bendapudi and Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Michael Wade Smith,” Schuyler said.
Despite the advice that he should be accompanied by another employee, Mack met alone with Gaudio on March 17, 2021 to inform him that he would not be retained. Gaudio flew into a rage and, in a swearing response that was secretly recorded by Mack, demanded payment or he would expose the alleged NCAA violations. He also requested a meeting the following day to review a payment contract.
Mack then met with Shoemaker, who worked for the university for 14 years, and athletic department officials to report the conversation and release the recording. Shoemaker says she believed Gaudio had committed a crime and she expressed safety concerns due to “Gaudio’s emotional state and his stated intention to return to campus the following day for a meeting with Mack in the hope that he would be paid”.
As a required reporter, according to the lawsuit, Shoemaker reported the incident to UofL Police Department Chief Gary Lewis that night. Vince Tyra, athletic director at the time, reported this to Bendapudi in a phone call that evening.
During a videoconference with Shoemaker and Smith the next morning, Bendapudi reportedly expressed “frustration and anger that Tyra contacted Chief Lewis the night before, including concerns about the negative publicity the incident will bring.” Shoemaker corrected Bendapudi and said it was she, not Tyra, who contacted the police.
Smith reportedly called Shoemaker on March 19 and told her she shouldn’t have reported the incident to the police and that decisions about what would be reported should be left to the president, adding that Bendapudi was “very upset,” according to the trial.
“Bendapudi is the University,” Smith reportedly told Shoemaker, and decisions to report similar incidents rest with the president.
In an April 8 video meeting with multiple athletic departments and legal staff, Shoemaker said Bendapudi “reprimanded[d]for reporting the extortion attempt and for assisting the FBI’s investigation of the incident.
“You can’t trust the FBI!” Bendapudi reportedly said, later adding that the FBI is “cunning,” according to the filing.
Later that day, Bendapudi texted Shoemaker saying she was sorry if she was being too hard on her. “I’m just worried. I appreciate you,” the post read.
Bendapudi told her in a later message that she had no questions about Shoemaker’s integrity and ethics, according to the lawsuit.
But Shoemaker says that after reporting the incident, she felt a shift in her role related to matters she had previously overseen.
According to the lawsuit, she was excluded from phone calls regarding an ongoing NCAA investigation that dated back to 2017, executive sessions of the board of directors of the University of Louisville Athletic Association (the nonprofit association which controls the school’s athletics program) and an accreditation process. she had co-chaired.
Shoemaker also says she was cut off from communication with Smith and Bendapudi, removed from the General Counsel’s group schedule, and barred from conversations about the decision to discipline Mack for violating school policies in her dealings with Gaudio.
“From the date she reported the extortion to the ULPD until November 2021, Plaintiff is effectively excluded by the Office of the President from her professional responsibilities as Assistant General Counsel for legal matters not otherwise directed. by Vince Tyra,” Shoemaker’s attorney, Hans Poppe, wrote.
In the months following the Gaudio incident, Bendapudi reportedly continued to express his anger that the extortion attempt had been reported to law enforcement.
On Nov. 29, UofL General Counsel Angela Curry met with Shoemaker to discuss his future, “including a reduction in responsibilities and salary paid by the attorney’s office,” Poppe wrote. (The university paid 25% of Shoemaker’s salary and the Athletic Association paid 75%).
Shoemaker described the reduction in liability as a “demotion” and an “implied termination.” She says it confirmed her “belief that she was deliberately diminished in her role as a lawyer, culminating in her being told she was being stripped of that role”.
The lawsuit accuses Bendapudi and Smith of orchestrating the job freeze and reduction in retaliation for Shoemaker reporting the Gaudio incident to police.
“Based on information and belief, the retaliation against Plaintiff orchestrated by Defendants’ agents Bendapudi and Smith was motivated in part by the President’s continued efforts to negotiate a salary increase with the Board of Directors of the ‘UofL in August 2021 and as part of soliciting job offers at other universities. As a result, she wanted to avoid a ‘stain’ on her file with a scandal at UofL,” Poppe wrote. .
Bendapudi was announced as Penn State’s next president on Dec. 9, 10 days after Shoemaker’s effective demotion. Her first Penn State hire was Smith, as senior vice president and chief of staff.
On November 30, Shoemaker was offered and eventually accepted a job at the University of Miami. She says she filed an internal whistleblower retaliation complaint with the UofL in December, but was never investigated.
The 12-page lawsuit against UofL claims two counts of violation of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act and one count of retaliation against a participant in legal proceedings.
Shoemaker seeks unspecified damages.
“As a result of defendants’ retaliation against plaintiff, she was forced to quit her job at UofL on behalf of ULAA, lost two terms of sabbatical pay, incurred relocation expenses, and suffered mental and emotional anguish moving away from her family and the UofL community where she had spent most of her life and career,” Poppe wrote.