Former Baylor University Board of Regents Chairman Neal “Buddy” Jones is accused of influencing current regents’ personnel decisions amid the school’s sexual assault scandal, according to a lawsuit filed by former Baylor associate athletics director Tom Hill, who was fired by the university in May.
Jones was recently added as a defendant in Hill’s lawsuit against Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP, which conducted a nine-month investigation into how Baylor handled sexual assault complaints. Pepper Hamilton attorneys Leslie M. Gomez and Gina Maisto Smith, who conducted the investigation on behalf of the firm, are also listed as individual defendants.
Jones, who left the board in 2013, did not reply to multiple requests for comment, nor did a Pepper Hamilton spokesman.
“Buddy Jones pulled puppet strings on members of that board of regents even after he was (off the board),” said Hill’s lawyer, Don Riddle, citing investigative evidence.
In the suit, Hill accuses Jones of persuading regents to fire or reassign President Ken Starr in the wake of Pepper Hamilton’s investigation. Hill is now seeking $2 million in damages, a sharp increase from the $60,000 he sought in the original petition filed Dec. 13, 2016. He claims to be a victim of negligence, wrongful intentional conduct, conspiracy and defamation.
Riddle said the damage to Hill’s reputation and ability to find a new job were more serious than originally thought, leading to the dramatic hike in damages for which Hill is asking.
“We didn’t really realize how extensive (Hill’s) damage was,” Riddle said. “He’s still unemployed and gets dead-ended everywhere he goes. His reputation has suffered. The damages are considerably more than we thought initially.”
Athletics Director Ian McCaw was sanctioned and placed on probation in May, but resigned days later. Colin Shillinglaw, another football program staffer, also was removed.
Riddle said he wants to review “field notes” and tape recordings Gomez and Smith may have taken during the investigation, which he said could clear the names of Starr, Briles and Hill.
“There are no fact findings given by Pepper Hamilton that I can see,” Riddle said.
After the lawsuit was filed last month, a Pepper Hamilton statement said the suit is unmerited and will be vigorously defended.
In his lawsuit, Hill claims the Pepper Hamilton attorneys did not collect pertinent facts or interviews with important witnesses, and says the investigation was biased.
In May, regents released a 13-page summary of the firm’s findings, along with Pepper Hamilton’s 105 recommendations for improvement. Prominent donors — including former Houston Astros owner and regent emeritus Drayton McLane, former Texas Gov. Mark White and Houston lawyer John Eddie Williams, among others — and alumni have been vocal in their calls for a more comprehensive report, which Baylor officials say does not exist.
In the summary, regents reported “fundamental failure” of Title IX implementation and a football program operating “above the rules.”
Board Chairman Ron Murff has said the production and release of a full report from Pepper Hamilton is “still something that is under consideration,” though there have been no indications the board has moved from its initial decision to not release the report.