Lawsuit update shows university hired a mediator, UNA responds

by Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Fleming

Audrey Mitchell, director of Environmental Services and Housing Facilities Management, updated her lawsuit in Audrey Mitchell v. University of North Alabama to say the university hired a mediator for her and Director of University Residences Kevin Jacques. The university has since responded to the federal suit.

At a Sept. 14 meeting, Assistant Vice President for Human Resources Catherine White informed Mitchell that UNA decided to hire Attorney-Mediator Michael Quinn to work with Jacques and Mitchell, according to the update.

“With regard to the university’s arrangement with Mike Quinn, UNA does not possess or maintain a written agreement regarding Mike Quinn or other document establishing an engagement of him by the university,” White said in a letter.

However, in a Sept. 15 email to Jacques and Mitchell, White said, “(Quinn) is a recourse for the university.”

White also told Jacques and Mitchell that “my understanding is that you will be meeting with him separately,” according to the email.

White requested that Mitchell and Jacques write a “statement of general issues between (their) two departments” for Quinn.

Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields, who Jacques reports to, and Acting Chief Financial Officer Evan Thornton, who Mitchell reports to, were also present at the Sept. 14 meeting, according to the update.

White read a statement at the meeting that said, “It (is) no secret that there is an ongoing conflict between Kevin Jacques and Audrey Mitchell. This conflict has caused the university to suffer and reached a dysfunctional level, and the students deserve better,” according to the lawsuit.

The statement also said, “Mike Quinn is here to help resolve the conflict so it does not continue to affect the students. He will not be looking at past years but moving forward,” according to the lawsuit.

A concern White discussed were issues that occurred during UNA Move In Day 2016.

However, Mitchell had not been notified of any issues occurring on Move In Day, according to the document.

White told those present that not working with Quinn would be considered insubordination, according to the lawsuit.

White informed Mitchell, Jacques, Thornton and Shields of the meeting with a Sept. 9 email, according to the update.

Before the meeting, White stated she could not give any details about the meeting, according to the document.

Mitchell responded that she did not feel comfortable attending the meeting because of her active lawsuit against the university, which names everyone at the intended meeting except Thornton. Thornton replaces Clinton Carter, who is mentioned in the lawsuit.

White told Mitchell attendance was not optional, according to the lawsuit.

The document also claims university officials are angry over Mitchell’s lawsuit, as well as The Flor-Ala’s coverage of the case.

According to the update, Mitchell feels targeted by the university, and she feels Quinn’s employment is to collect data to justify terminating her.

Mitchell would not comment on the alleged hiring of Quinn, saying, “I was instructed that this is a confidential employee matter and could not (be discussed) with anyone.”

Quinn, Jacques and Thornton have not responded to requests for comment.

UNA responded to Mitchell’s update with a motion to strike, or remove her claim, Sept. 22.

Magistrate Judge Harwell Davis denied the motion Sept. 23.

The motion asked for an order striking the Sept. 8 lawsuit filing and the Sept. 19, claiming neither document complied with the court’s Aug. 30 request for a more definite statement.

The order referred to Mitchell’s lawsuit as a “shotgun pleading,” indicating an excessive number of claims.

The suggested basis for striking the complaint was Civil Procedure 12(e) which says, “If the court orders a more definite statement and the order is not obeyed within 14 days after notice of the order or within the time that the court sets, the court may strike the pleading or issue any other appropriate order.”

Stick with The Flor-Ala as this story develops.