A former employee of the Office of Student Activities is considering a lawsuit against Temple over claims that he was wrongfully dismissed because he was going to reveal potentially unethical hiring practices in the office.
John Hodges, former night operations manager in the Student Center, was fired on March 1. His official dismissal from the University states he violated the school’s policy against “mistreatment, negligence and neglect or abuse of clients.” The Temple Employee Manual lists negligence as an offense that can cause immediate dismissal.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – the union that represents Hodges – said complaints about him were e-mailed by student workers to the office of Student Activities.
The complaints stated that Hodges, who still works at Temple as an adjunct computer information sciences professor, used anti-Semitic and anti-Christian remarks in conversations with student workers at the information desk in the Student Center. Hodges admits to using the language, but said his words were taken out of context.
Gary Kapanowski, Temple’s AFSCME representative, said Hodges was set up by employees in the office of Student Activities because of information Hodges knew about hiring practices within the department.
Director of Student Activities Rita Calicat denied that claim.
“He was dismissed for legitimate reasons and I can’t go into those reasons because I can’t,” Calicat said. “He was not wrongfully dismissed at all. We had several students who lodged some complaints about his behaviors. I want to stay away from that stuff because we’re still working through this. John was terminated based on what we believe are legitimate reasons.”
Hodges said the office of Student Activities has used two production companies, Emergency Room Entertainment and Productions and Kevin E. Sound Engineering and Productions, for various student events. Hodges said these companies have ties to Calicat and another employee in Student Activities, which could violate Temple’s conflict-of-interest policy.
George Moore, the University’s lawyer, said he could not comment on a potential conflict of interest in this case.
Invoices given to The Temple News by Kapanowski and Hodges show that payment for work done by Kevin E. Sound Engineering and Productions was made to Kevin E. Wayns, who is the father of Rita Calicat’s son. Other invoices list Richard K. Wayns as a contact for Emergency Room Entertainment and Productions. Calicat said Richard Wayns is a “distant relative” of Kevin E. Wayns. She would not further explain the relationship.
Hodges said Richard K. Wayns is the father of Richard Ellerson, assistant director for facilities and operations at the Student Center.
Property tax records link Richard K. Wayns and Richard Ellerson. One record lists Richard K. Wayns and Linda A. Ellerson as owners of a home in North Philadelphia. A second property lists Richard Ellerson and Linda A. Ellerson as the owners of a home in Northeast Philadelphia.
Calicat would not comment on the conflict of interest policy but said these two production companies are not the only ones used by the office.
“Are we competitive? Absolutely. Do we use other folks? Absolutely. Have we used other folks? Absolutely,” she said.
Hodges was instructed by his union to tell Temple officials of these hiring practices after the end of his 90-day probationary period as a new employee. Waiting until the end of the probationary period ensured the union could represent him.
Kapanowski said a grievance hearing with Temple’s Human Resources Department, the division of Student Affairs and union representation for Hodges was held after Hodges’ dismissal.
Hodges said the meeting was unproductive, and ended roughly 10 minutes after it started.
“It’s an ongoing investigation and I’m not at liberty to comment,” Dean of Students Ainsely Carry said. “Until every side is out, my position has to be neutral.”
Hodges said he has filed for arbitration with American Arbitration Association and is also considering a lawsuit in the Philadelphia Court of Common pleas under the state Whistleblower Act.
The whistleblower law in Pennsylvania prohibits a public employer from firing an employee because the employee reports in good faith to appropriate authorities in an instance of waste or wrongdoing. Under Pennsylvania law, Hodges has until August 28 – 180 days from the date of his dismissal – to file suit.
A whistleblower case in Common Pleas Court would be held in front of a judge, not a jury. A judge’s finding in favor of Hodges could grant him back pay from the time of his termination and reinstatement if he chooses to return to Temple.
The decision of an independent arbiter could yield the same results. Either could take from six months to a year.
Hodges said he would consider reinstatement, but going back would depend on the management situation in Student Activities.
“I don’t hold any grudges or bad feelings toward these people,” Hodges said. “I feel what they did was wrong and I believe they know what they did was wrong and that’s why they chose to get rid of me.”
Lucas K. Murray can be reached at email@example.com.