A judge ruled Tuesday that former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter must repay $275,000 to the school’s private fundraising arm.
The amount includes a $200,000 salary supplement from the private Southern University System Foundation that Slaughter received in March 2009, the day the public Southern Board of Supervisors voted for Slaughter to vacate his job when his two-year contract expired at the end of June 2009.
The other $75,000 is foundation money that Slaughter used — among other things — to pay one of his attorneys, Jill Craft, after he sued Southern over his dismissal.
Foundation attorney Preston Castille argued Tuesday that the payments to Slaughter of $200,000 and $75,000 were “prohibited transactions,” and state District Judge Tim Kelley agreed.
The judge said Slaughter, as a member of the foundation, breached his fiduciary duty to the foundation.
John McLindon, who represents Slaughter in the case, said he will ask the state 1st Circuit of Appeal in Baton Rouge to review Kelley’s ruling.
The foundation sued Slaughter in late 2009, seeking about $500,000 from him. The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 13. At Tuesday’s hearing, the foundation only asked Kelley to rule on $275,000 of that total.
The foundation’s suit claims Slaughter received $400,000 in salary supplements without foundation board approval, although the payments were authorized by the university’s Board of Supervisors as the result of a 2007 settlement of a Slaughter lawsuit against Southern.
Slaughter said after the hearing that the supplemental salary paid from the foundation was agreed to in writing at the time of the settlement of his 2007 suit.
“At no time did I approve any disbursements or sign any checks on behalf of the SU Foundation, nor breach any obligations,” he said. “In fact, every check issued by the SU Foundation was signed by its officers and its executive director. The SU Foundation officers and its executive director signed affidavits in this lawsuit attesting that the payments were not only proper, followed foundation procedures and authorized by the SU Foundation.”
Castille argued during the hearing that the foundation board “was not given an opportunity to vote” on the annual $200,000 salary supplement.
“The university and Dr. Slaughter had a contract,” Castille said. “The foundation was never a party” to the contract.
McLindon countered that Castille was “actively involved” in the negotiations following Slaughter’s 2007 suit.
The foundation’s suit also alleges Slaughter illegally used $75,000 in foundation funds to pay Craft; $3,600 for moving expenses at the end of his job; and nearly $16,000 for an Essence Music Festival suite and 25 tickets for each of the fest’s three days in July 2009 in New Orleans.
The suit also claims Slaughter took furniture and decorations owned by the foundation on his way out.
Slaughter has said the Essence Fest suite and tickets were requested by foundation board members to entertain potential donors and he was simply controlling the account.
He said he only attended the suite briefly for one of the three nights. He denied going on a spending spree during his exit from Southern.
Slaughter also has said he only kept furniture that he owned, noting that it is routine for foundations to pay the moving expenses of university executives.
Slaughter is suing in state and federal courts for retaliation and wrongful termination by the Southern board. He contends his decision in 2007 to report allegations of sexual harassment against former board Chairman Johnny Anderson began the demise of his career.