Wilberforce officials accused of retaliation, discrimination in suit

Wilberforce University and two of its top administrators have been accused of retaliating against a former acting police chief who helped a female officer report sexual harassment.

Aaron Smith has filed a lawsuit in the southern district court of Ohio against administrators alleging he was mistreated and eventually terminated for assisting a fellow officer in reporting and investigating the harassment. The lawsuit also alleges that Smith, who is both African American and Native American, was discriminated against based on his race.

Smith’s attorney, Alissa Sammarco Magenheim, in Cincinnati, said she was not yet able to comment on the lawsuit early Tuesday.

Explore RELATED: Wilberforce University wants to sell part of campus for $7 million

The events detailed in the lawsuit began in July 2015 when a female officer accused the then-police chief and another officer of sexual harassment. Smith said human resources director Anita Jefferson-Gomez told him to write a letter about the harassment to Algeania Freeman, the former president of Wilberforce University who has since retired.

Shortly after he wrote the letter, Smith stated in the lawsuit that Jefferson-Gomez and William Woodson, senior vice president for administration and finance, began treating him “significantly worse than other non-African American, non-Native American males.”

Explore RELATED: Finalist for WSU president job faced turmoil in Wisconsin

Woodson and Jefferson-Gomez are both named in the lawsuit.

Woodson referred questions on the lawsuit to Cincinnati attorney Joseph Borchelt. Borchelt could not be reached to comment on Tuesday. Jefferson-Smith also could not be reached Tuesday.

Smith became acting police chief after the police chief who had been accused resigned, according to the lawsuit.

Despite being acting chief, Smith states in the lawsuit that he was denied a copy of keys to the police evidence locker on March 29, 2016.

Explore TWEET: Follow reporter Max Filby on Twitter for more higher ed news

On April 6, 2016, the university placed Smith on administrative leave, following the complaint of a student, according to the lawsuit. Smith was then fired on April 18, 2016, according to the lawsuit.

The student complained he had overheard Smith and other officers discussing a student who had made threats toward another student. The student who filed the complaint was upset because the person the officers were discussing was his cousin.

Smith was told he was fired for “continuous conduct being unbecoming of an officer.” Smith stated in the lawsuit thought that he was never warned or confronted about the alleged conduct.


WSU trustees: no decision yet on president’s job

Attorney from Netflix’s ‘Making A Murderer’ to speak at UD

More than 80 percent of college students admit they have cheated

Ohio college offering 3-year bachelor’s degrees to help students save

Antioch College objects to treatment of Sen. Elizabeth Warren

About the Author