Suit: A&M prof demoted for whistle-blowing
A Texas A&M University professor was demoted because he raised questions about the construction of a medical building in which some A&M employees had a financial interest, according to a whistle-blower lawsuit filed in state District Court in Travis County this week against the A&M System and A&M Health Science Center.
In 2008, Robert Hash was offered a three-year contract as vice dean of academic affairs and associate professor with tenure in the center’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, the lawsuit says, for which he was to be paid $290,000 per year. In his second year, Hash learned about the school’s new Family Medicine Practice building on Texas 47, the suit says.
“Hash then learned that certain high level employees/officers of the defendants and/or their family members had financial interests in the development and success of the Health Science Center’s Highway 47 Campus,” the
The program at the school that would be paying for the building was losing money, yet the building would cost $37 to $38 per square foot, far above market value, the suit says.
Hash says in the suit that he tried several times to bring this up to several superiors at the school, including the former dean of the school and the university’s president. The suit includes an email he sent in February to the chief of staff of the president of the Health Science Center asking for a list of the project’s investors. He said he was not given the list.
In March, Hash lodged an ethics complaint through the university system’s hot line and the state’s Office of Inspector General abuse and fraud reporting system, according to court documents. A few days later, Hash was relieved of his vice dean job and was demoted to associate professor without tenure, the suit says. The letter to Hash from the dean of the Health Science Center says his performance in the role was unsatisfactory.
Officials with A&M said they had not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, but Andrew Strong, general counsel for the A&M System, said Hash was “moved down into a faculty position because he had personality differences with other administrators.”
He said he could not com
Associate professor Robert Hash was ‘moved down into a faculty position because he had personality differences with other administrators.’
General counsel for the Texas A&M University System
ment further until he received a copy of the lawsuit.
Hash filed a complaint and appealed the school’s decision, the suit says.
Hash’s tenured position was restored in April, but the school upheld its decision on his termination as vice dean of academic affairs. This reduced his pay about $90,000, according to court documents.
Strong said an anonymous complaint was made through the system hot line about the property on Texas 47, and an internal auditor is investigating the complaint.
“His dismissal could not have been based on that,” Strong said. He said it would be unlikely that the school would be able to receive and process the complaint, then demote Hash in one day. Strong said it takes at least several days for the complaint to go through the reporting system and to authorities.