DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - Three former employees at N.C. Central University have filed lawsuits against the school’s chancellor, saying she discriminated against non-blacks and spent taxpayer money for personal use.
Local media outlets report the university issued a statement Wednesday denying what it called “numerous unfounded allegations” made against Chancellor Debra Saunders-White.
Kimberly Luse, the chancellor’s former chief of staff, said in her lawsuit that Saunders-White, who is black, had a personal animosity toward her after she reported that the chancellor spent state money on personal expenses. Luse, who is white, said Saunders-White berated her in front of colleagues, accused her of having sex with school employees and visitors and said Luse wasn’t performing her job properly.
Luse filed her lawsuit in Durham County Superior Court and is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for health problems that she said resulted from a hostile work environment.
Two of the lawsuits are in federal court. Marianne Murphy, who was a professor at NCCU’s business school, and Francis Smith, who was director of graduate, professional, and executive programs at the School of Business, are seeking damages and back pay. Murphy is of Cuban descent and Smith is white.
Murphy and Smith also say in their lawsuits that both former business school dean Keith Pigues and current Interim Dean Juanita Lester have engaged in racial discrimination against non-blacks.
Smith lost his job in a restructuring of the business school last year, although a black employee was hired to take his place, according to his lawsuit. Murphy left her tenured position at N.C. Central after her complaints to university administrators about over being paid less than black professors and being passed over for promotions were never addressed, her lawsuit said.
Murphy also said University of North Carolina system officials know of racial discrimination at N.C. Central but have chosen not to address it.
“NCCU has an impeccable record of fostering diversity and inclusion within its faculty, staff and student communities. The university has a high expectation of excellence in work performance, accountability and transparency that are in compliance with the University of North Carolina system,” the school said in its statement. “NCCU maintains nondiscriminatory policies, practices and procedures that ensure the fair, transparent and equitable resolution of employment-related grievances.”
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