Former Mesalands employees file suit against college

One current and two former employees have filed suit against Mesalands Community College.

"These individuals want to bring to light the unethical, inappropriate and illegal actions at Mesalands," said Linda G. Hemphill, lead council for the plaintiffs.

Hemphill said her clients, Joanna Gutierrez, Kenneth Cooper and Jennifer DeBord, are trying to shed light on practices that allegedly took place under former President Phillip O. Barry's administration at Mesalands.

Mesalands released a statement in response: "We strongly refute the allegations made by these plaintiffs and we look forward to addressing these issues in court and not in the media."

Complaints listed in the court document allege several infractions committed by Barry and members of the trustees including; purchasing alcohol with public funds for various college-sponsored events, taking personal vacations with no real business-related purpose at the college's expense; and giving exorbitant salaries, raises and bonuses to select employees while refusing to pay others for legitimately earned overtime.

According to court documents:

  • Cooper was discharged without cause.
  • DeBord was asked to remove itemized receipts from Barry's expense reports which included alcohol purchases; was verbally abused by a different supervisor and was subject to an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
  • Gutierrez was discriminated on in her work space, not compensated for overtime and disciplined when she reported unfair conditions.

Hemphill's clients are seeking compensation to cover lost wages, emotional distress, court costs and attorney fees. According to Mesalands' directory and officials Gutierrez is currently employed at Mesalands; Cooper and DeBord are former employees.

Hemphill has filed for the recusal of Tenth Judicial District Judge Albert J Mitchell Jr.

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