The former president of Bates Technical College who was fired in March after an investigation into his behavior now claims he was fired suddenly despite agreeing to a disciplinary plan prepared for him by the school's Title IX investigator.
In a notice of claim sent to the college in late April, an attorney for Ron Langrell also said the former president was the subject of a biased investigation and that the college irreparably damaged his reputation. The claim, which is the precursor to a lawsuit, also said Langrell, 60, was preparing to comply with the disciplinary plan when he was fired "without warning."
Among Langrell's demands: three years of salary, totaling $606,900; three years of 401(k) matching funds, totaling $60,690; $55,000 in attorney's fees and a mutually agreed upon letter of recommendation.
"It’s a whole host of things, ranging from how the investigation was initially conducted to the investigation report, and then what the Title IX officer recommended thereafter, and then the decision and manner in which they handled the discipline directive," said Clemencia Castro-Woolery, Langrell's attorney.
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Castro-Woolery also said the college violated the Open Public Meetings Act by banning Langrell from attending the board's public meetings. She said Langrell's legal counsel asked whether he could attend the Feb. 27 meeting to address the trustees and was told by an assistant attorney general that he was prohibited from attending because he was on administrative leave and barred from campus, where the meeting was held.
Bates spokeswoman Chelsea Lindquist said in a statement that the college received a demand letter and tort claim from the attorneys representing the former president.
"While the college does not comment on potential litigation, we take these matters seriously. Therefore, we will be working with the Office of Risk Management and the Office of the Attorney General in addressing this matter," the statement says.
The investigation into Langrell's conduct was ordered following an employee-harassment complaint in November. It found that Langrell gave unwanted hugs, made inappropriate comments and intimidated and demeaned employees, according to public records obtained by The News Tribune. Langrell, 60, was placed on paid administrative leave in late January.
The board's decision on March 20 to fire him was a departure from a vote it took in February, in which it decided that Langrell’s return would be contingent upon him adhering to a “disciplinary directive” that would be handed down by the school’s Title IX coordinator Marshall Sampson. His job is to coordinate the college's efforts to comply with its obligations and regulations tied to Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. That includes coordinating investigations of complaints related to potential violations.
Sampson's disciplinary directive said the investigation substantiated misconduct and inappropriate behavior by Langrell. In order to return to work, Langrell would need to complete several training courses before June 30, including Harassment Awareness and Prevention for Supervisors, for which he would be reimbursed by the college.
The March 6 disciplinary directive also said Langrell is "specifically directed" not to hug subordinates, not to make inappropriate or objectifying comments to women, not to bully or demean subordinates and to treat all employees with respect.
Langrell and his attorneys objected to the language in the disciplinary directive and proposed a revised directive "that was consistent with Dr. Langrell's employment contract and legal rights." According to the claim notice, the college rejected that, Castro-Woolery said.
"We were negotiating over the terms, and then they shortly thereafter said no, it's off the table, the language is whatever the language is in the document," she said.
On March 14, Langrell agreed to move forward with the directive and started looking into training classes to ensure he met the April 1 deadline for registering, the claim notice said.
"Without warning, following the March 20 trustees meeting, Bates terminated Dr. Langrell's employment under his employment agreement without further explanation," the letter reads.
The board voted unanimously after an executive session that day to terminate Langrell's contract "for convenience." The decision to terminate Langrell “for convenience” instead of “for cause” means he qualifies for a severance payment equal to six months of his base salary, according to his contract. Langrell’s most recent annual salary was $202,292.30.
According to the March 6 disciplinary directive, "Failure to meet the time lines set forth in this directive is per se cause for immediate termination 'for cause' as per Dr. Langrell's employment contract."
About a week after the board voted to fire Langrell, chairman Layne Bladow said as far as he knew, Langrell had agreed to the directive "in concept."
"I think we made a decision based on what we knew and what we felt was best for the college," Bladow said.