AU responds to suit for discrimination and defamation as case progresses to federal court

Dr. Lesley Williams in front of the fountain at Summerville campus. (photo by Emily Garcia)

A sex discrimination, retaliation and defamation lawsuit filed by Dr. Lesley Williams in Richmond County Superior Court moved to federal court in the Southern District of Georgia on July 15.

Dr. Williams filed a lawsuit against Augusta University in early June after being terminated from her residency. Dr. Williams’ termination came despite her passing a number of tests to prove herself fit for duty after being diagnosed with a post-traumatic stress disorder. 

The case’s transition from superior court to federal court came on the same day AU submitted its official response to the claims contained in Dr. Williams’ complaint.

AU responded with 26 defenses to Dr. Williams’ initial complaint. 

Among these defenses, AU stated that Dr. Williams’ claims were, “not raised within the applicable statute of limitations,” and that she failed to exhaust all administrative remedies.

Furthermore, the response posited that, “Dr. Brooks Keel, Dr. Walter Moore, Dr. Steffan Meiler, and Dr. Mary Arthur, in their individual capacities, are entitled to official immunity.”

Additionally, the response stated that Dr. Williams’ claims of defamation, libel and slander fail, “because any statements made by these defendants were without malice.”

The response went on to admit and deny a number of allegations.

Of the admittances, Drs. Meiler and Arthur admitted to disagreeing with Dean Hess’s decision to reinstate Dr.Williams. 

AU also admitted that a faculty meeting was held on June 3, 2019, and that “the faculty overwhelmingly supported the dismissal of the plaintiff from the residency program.”

Dr. Williams alleged in her complaint that during this meeting faculty members sat down and penned a number of bad performance reviews about her to send to Dr. Coule, prior to her revocation of privileges.

The defendants in the case deny committing any wrongful acts as alleged in Dr. Williams’ complaint by John Lott, a contractor and former interim chief of compliance at AU.

The response stated, “these defendants admit only that Mr. Lott was an independent contractor, and his contract was terminated.”

Although, Lott’s removal and eventual termination came just two days after he spoke with Clay Sprouse, interim vice president of audit, compliance, ethics and risk management at AU, about briefing leadership on the non-compliance with policies in Dr. Sarah Kavianpour’s case.

Dr. Kavianpour’s case against AU is now also in federal court.

Defendants Augusta University Health Systems, Augusta University Medical Center, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, Brooks Keel, Steffan Meiler, and Mary Arthur will all be represented by three lawyers from the Georgia attorney general’s office, including Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr, and a lawyer from the Hull Barrett firm located in downtown Augusta.

According to documents filed in federal district court, Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer at AU and defendant in Dr. Williams’ case, was the only defendant to opt for a personal lawyer and will be defended by Robert C. Threlkeld.

All parties in the case have 14 days to refile any pending motions and responses with the federal district court.

This article originally appeared on the Bell Ringer’s website:

Published by Emily G. Garcia

Enterprise Reporter at The Red & Black

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