Baylor campus

Plaintiffs in a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor University alleged Wednesday that former interim President David Garland advised an athletics administrator to erase emails related to the sexual assault scandal.

The former interim president of Baylor University, David Garland, advised a high-level athletics official in June 2016 to erase emails relevant to the school’s sexual assault scandal, according to a motion filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court. But Baylor pushed back on the claim Wednesday night, saying the emails Garland referred to were related to Big 12 expansion.

“I would erase the emails,” Garland wrote to an unnamed athletics administrator, the motion states.

The email was sent June 14, 2016, two weeks into Garland’s time as interim president after Ken Starr was removed as president. June 1, 2016, to May 31, 2017, marked Garland’s second stint as Baylor’s interim president. Before his term ended, the board of regents launched a scholarship fund in his name.

The university said in a statement it reviewed records Wednesday night after the filing.

“Baylor has determined Interim Athletic Director Todd Patulski sent an email to Dr. Garland on June 14, 2016, with a detailed report on a recent Big 12 meeting which included confidential information on Big 12 expansion issues,” according to the statement. “Sixteen minutes later, Dr. Garland sent Mr. Patulski an email response thanking him and asking him to delete the email. Baylor will discuss these facts more fully in our reply to be filed with the court.”

The motion filed by attorneys for 10 women suing the school under Title IX, alleges Baylor issued a misleading statement four months ago, when it said no documents retrieved from Garland and other top administrators between June and September 2016 dealt with evidence destruction.

“None of the documents implied, expressly instructed, or showed affirmative action that an employee at Baylor directed, instructed, suggested, referenced, or mentioned the deletion, purge, removal, or alteration of any document or information related to issues of concern or to this case,” the Baylor statement said.

One of the women’s lawyers, Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, declined to name the recipient of Garland’s email, though Baylor identified the recipient as Patulski. Identified in the motion as a male, the recipient made a note at the time, writing: “Interim President sent this email to me. No follow up communication transpired to this particular email. Due to the unusual nature, I kept a copy.”

Lisa Brown, an outside counsel for Baylor, said in a statement Wednesday that the plaintiffs’ attorneys have “leap[t] to wildly unsubstantiated conclusions based on one vague email.” She said Garland’s email was not improperly withheld because Pepper Hamilton LLP did not ask to collect it during the firm’s investigation of Baylor’s institutional response to sexual assault reports.

The email also does not include the word “deletion” or any other words that would have produced the email in a search using the terms the plaintiffs suggested, Brown said.

She said Baylor has produced more than 1.5 million pages of evidence during the discovery process.

“To make such broad unsubstantiated accusations in the middle of discovery is troubling,” Brown wrote. “Baylor and its counsel have complied with all court orders and rules and have not improperly withheld emails or any other evidence, and we look forward to responding aggressively and in specific detail with the court.”

Dunnam countered, saying Baylor claiming “that ‘erase the emails’ does not imply or suggest getting rid of evidence would be laughable if this were not such a serious matter. People only make up excuses for hiding something when there is something to hide. So much for transparency.”

Patulski participated in Baylor’s sexual assault task force, which was created in June of 2016 after Pepper Hamilton’s investigation found a campuswide “fundamental failure” in the university’s Title IX implementation and a football program that did not properly report sexual assault claims.

Patulski is now a deputy athletics director at Liberty University working under Ian McCaw, the former Baylor athletic director who resigned amid the scandal.

The lawsuit was filed one day after Garland sent the email. Baylor was already facing litigation from Jasmin Hernandez, a former student who was raped by football player Tevin Elliott. Hernandez and Baylor reached a settlement last year.

The motion filed Wednesday also describes a 2015 meeting including then-associate general counsel Chris Holmes, who is now general counsel, Senior Vice President Reagan Ramsower and then-Vice President for Operations and Facilities Brian Nicholson. The meeting dealt with a specific file pertaining to a rape, according to the motion.

“Multiple people who were in attendance heard one senior administrator direct the destruction of this file, to which Mr. Holmes responded, ‘I did not see that,’ ” the motion states.

Additionally, the filing references a text message conversation in August 2015 between Ramsower and Nicholson, in which one writes “Patties (sic) about to talk about shredding documents,” apparently referring to then-Title IX Coordinator Patty Crawford.

Brown said the plaintiffs’ attorneys wrongly suggested the conversation was connected with Crawford’s departure 14 months later. According to the motion, Baylor’s offer of an undisclosed amount of money and a nondisclosure agreement to Crawford was “obviously an attempt to assist its efforts to keep this event and a whole host of others secret.”

Crawford did not sign a nondisclosure agreement and told the Tribune-Herald, and other national media outlets, she was discouraged from performing her job. Baylor disputed her claims.

Garland, widely recognized by the Baylor community as a healing presence as the scandal unfolded, has become a central figure of the lawsuit. A deposition taken on his last day as interim president showed he was unaware of some details behind the scandal.

The plaintiffs later accused him of believing that some victims of sexual assault “may seem willingly to make themselves victims,” which Baylor said was misrepresented.

A tentative trial date is set for October.

Phillip Ericksen joined the Tribune-Herald in March 2015 as a sports copy editor. That November, he joined the news team. He has covered higher education, city hall, politics and crime.

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