Suit: A&M prof de­moted for whis­tle-blow­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO&STATE - By isadora Vail

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

law­suit says.

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.’

an­drew strong

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.

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