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Former college official’s suit seeks $750,000 in damages

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (BP)–A former employee of William Carey College is suing the Baptist-affiliated school in Hattiesburg, Miss., alleging his termination was connected to concerns he raised about false statements on an application for a federal grant.
Larry Braidfoot, former vice president for academic affairs and provost at WCC, filed suit on May 14 in Forrest County Circuit Court in Hattiesburg. The suit asks for $250,000 in compensatory damages, $500,000 in punitive damages, unspecified economic damages, attorney fees and interest.
The filing, which presents only one side of a legal argument, claims Braidfoot was fired because he questioned the truthfulness of statements made on an application signed by WCC Chancellor James W. Edwards for a federal Department of Education (DOE) Title III Strengthening Institutions grant.
The school was approved for the grant in 1994 but was forced, along with Edwards and consultant Barbara Jones of Senatobia, to repay $345,666 after U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott of Jackson determined in October 1997 that false statements had indeed been made on the grant application.
Among the findings of a two-year DOE investigation released by Pigott:
— There was no annual assessment and development of WCC academic programs by a long-range planning committee, as attested in the grant application.
— There was no management and student information task force composed of specific members, as attested in the grant application.
— There was no faculty development committee with named members, as attested in the grant application.
Edwards was placed on temporary leave of absence on Sept. 29, 1997, by the WCC board of trustees, and he resigned the following Oct. 6 from his dual positions of chancellor and chief executive officer.
The lawsuit states Edwards, who had led WCC since 1989, now resides in Plano, Texas, but it does not list his occupation.
Braidfoot states in the lawsuit that after the grant was approved, he was provided a copy of the application in which he discovered “no less than 25 misrepresentations regarding certain committees alleged to exist … including the representation that the Plaintiff (Braidfoot) had been a member of a committee which had made certain recommendations included in the grant application, whereas the Plaintiff had been a member of no such committee and had authorized no such use of his name … .”
Braidfoot claims in the lawsuit that when Edwards did not provide a response to his requests for an explanation, he took his concerns to certain WCC trustees in positions of authority on the board, and the board eventually authorized a “sham investigation, controlled by the Defendant, Edwards, … which was erroneous, incomplete, and misleading, and which was wilfully (sic) calculated to conceal wrongdoing of the Grant Application … .”
Braidfoot contends in the lawsuit that the “sham investigation” was then used to break his employment contract with the school, resulting in his firing on May 19, 1995.
He states in the lawsuit that his termination was in retaliation for reporting “clear violation of board policy and of federal law and because the Plaintiff had not given his after-the-fact assent to the false and unauthorized use of his name in the Grant Application … .”
A telephone number provided by directory assistance for a James Edwards in Plano, Texas, went unanswered on publication deadline.
Braidfoot’s attorney, David C. Frazier of Pascagoula, Miss., declined comment on specifics on the pending lawsuit but did say, “This is not a knee-jerk reaction on Larry Braidfoot’s part. He never, ever wanted to do this until it became obvious it was going to be necessary.”

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  • William H. Perkins Jr.