A federal judge declined Wednesday night to punish a Southern University administrator over allegations that he went to great lengths to duck a subpoena calling for him to be a witness in a workplace retaliation lawsuit scheduled to start Monday.
After about an hour of testimony at the Baton Rouge federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge James J. Brady said there wasn’t enough evidence to hold Brandon Dumas in contempt of court.
Dumas is Southern’s vice chancellor for student affairs. He is a defense witness in a lawsuit filed by Joseph Cedric Shelton, a former alumni affairs administrator at Southern.
Shelton lost his job as part of a budget-cutting reorganization plan implemented in the Southern University System office in the wake of then-System President Ralph Slaughter’s June 30, 2009, departure.
Slaughter, who was president of the Southern System from April 2006 through June 2009, is suing in state court and federal court for retaliation and wrongful termination.
In Shelton’s lawsuit against the school, former employees and board members, he claims the university fired him in September 2009 as revenge for testifying in favor of Slaughter in federal court in 2007 and for reporting alleged sexual harassment at the school.
The harassment allegations claimed former Southern Board Chairman Johnny Anderson, of Baton Rouge, harassed Southern employees. Those allegations served as the basis of Slaughter’s 2007 litigation against the board.
Shelton also alleges retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint against former Southern Board Vice Chairwoman Dale Atkins, of New Orleans.
Wednesday’s contempt hearing began with Brady saying, “I just want to find out what’s going on.”
Southern student Kyle Russell took the witness stand first and testified that he was hired by Shelton to serve Dumas with a subpoena.
Russell said he tried to make contact with Dumas several times at the administrator’s office and once at his church.
Russell said he later tried to serve Dumas’ subpoena through Southern system and Board of Supervisors general counsel Tracie Woods.
Russell described a June 7 scene in which, he said, Woods took a series of evasive maneuvers in her black truck trying to avoid him as he followed her on Southern’s campus.
Russell said when he eventually caught up to Woods at her law school class later that evening, he put the subpoena on her desk and then said to the class of about 50 students, “Y’all saw me serve her right.” She threw the paperwork at him, he said.
Woods took the witness stand next and described a much less dramatic scene, including her running a series of errands before walking into a building to teach a class.
Woods denied both trying to evade Russell and throwing the subpoena at him. She said she does not represent Dumas and was not the proper person to accept a subpoena on his behalf.
After some back-and-forth among lawyers, Brady ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence “legally or factually” to hold Dumas in contempt.
After court, Dumas denied trying to dodge the subpoena.