Ave Maria University Coach: “My integrity is worth more than $22,000.”

Naples Daily News - January 6, 2012

Ave Maria University has been caught being dishonest, again.  On January 6, Naples Daily News published a statement from the University:

"Mr. Barry Fagan is stepping down as Head Football Coach and is leaving the University."  

Later that same day, however, Naples Daily News ran its own follow-up story to explain that Fagan, in fact, did not resign.  Excerpts from the article "Former AMU Coach Says He Was Forced Out; "I did not resign"":

"I did not resign," Fagan said. "I did not step down. It was more like pushed down the stairs and thrown out the door.”

... Fagan said the university was willing to pay him through June 1 (amounting to $22,000 by his own estimate) if Fagan did not publicly contradict that he "stepped down" and discuss the circumstances behind his dismissal.  

"The reason why the school is making the statement they are making about I stepped down [sic] is they are worried about what I might say," Fagan said. "They gave me a deal. It was if you tell everybody you resigned for personal reasons or that the program is going in a different direction and you don’t disparage the university at all, we will pay you until June 1."  

"But if I tell people I've been fired and the reasons why I've been fired, then (my) contract is done. My integrity is worth more than $22,000."

Fagan’s replacement -  Kevin Joyce - was hired by AMU in 2010 to work as a major gifts officer in AMU's Development office. He served four terms as the Democrat representative of the 35th District in Illinois.  He is the son of Jeremiah Joyce, a top political strategist for Chicago Mayor Richard Daley; a Chicago Tribune investigation claims that the elder Joyce made millions from lucrative concession contracts at O’Hare airport by using his political influence.

Given the problem of poor academic performance within Ave Maria’s athletic program, coupled with the institution’s budget cuts and financial woes, it would not be surprising if an expensive sport such as football is eventually phased out under Joyce.  


Newspaper: Ave Maria’s Jackson Laboratory Debacle is the Top Regional Story of 2011

Naples Daily News - December 30, 2011

The Naples Daily News has named Ave Maria Town's contentious, but failed, effort to lure a Maine biomedical research firm - Jackson Laboratory - as the top local story of the year.  Excerpt:

"Jackson Laboratory faced a community backlash over economic incentives it wanted to set up a scientific research lab near Ave Maria. A $260 million package of state and local financing was too much to stomach for many Collier [County] residents."

Billionaire Tom Monaghan got the ball rolling by selling his half interest in a 50 acre Ave Maria parcel to his real estate partner Barron Collier Co., knowing that Collier would then donate the land to Jackson.  Why the sham insulation?  

Examples of Jackson Laboratory's activity in Human Embryonic Stem Cells:

Jackson Lab news release:

"Chair of Jackson Laboratory scientific board appointed to NIH's "Working Group for Human Embryonic Stem Cell Eligibility Review"

Article from the journal "Gene Therapy", 2010 by Jackson scientist Leonard D. Shultz:

"In vivo selection of human embryonic stem cell-derived cells expressing methotrexate-resistant dihydrofolate reductase."

From article abstract:  "Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) provide a novel source of hematopoietic and other cell populations suitable for gene therapy applications."

Article from the journal "Nature Biotechnology", 2007 by Jackson scientist Gary A. Churchill:

"Characterization of human embryonic stem cell lines by the International Stem Cell Initiative."

Jackson Lab also has a long history of hosting, in its facilities, conferences that teach scientists how to do human embryonic stem cell research. (example from Jackson's website; image source here):

Finally, Jackson's Reproductive Biology division is heavily invested in the development of "better contraceptive methods".  Example:

From the journal Cytogenetic Genome Research, an article by Jackson scientists:

"New mouse genetic models for human contraceptive development."

While Ave Maria developers and supporters tried hard to push the Jackson Laboratory real estate development plan through Collier County and the state, the local Bishop finally issued a statement expressing the Diocese's concerns about the project.  That did not stop Ave Maria theology professor Michael Waldstein from endorsing the Jackson Lab project in public, calling it “a gift of God” and “an answer to prayer.”


Ave Maria Broke Law by Firing Whistleblower

Detroit News - May 4, 2011

"Ave Maria violated law when firing whistleblower, jury finds"

http://www.detnews.com/article/20110504/METRO/105040412/

Excerpts:

A Washtenaw County jury Wednesday awarded almost $418,000 to a former Ave Maria College administrator who sued the school for firing her in retaliation for cooperating with federal investigators who found financial aid violations.  The jury of four women and two men determined the college violated state law that is designed to protect whistleblower employees who point out wrongdoing in their workplace, and it compensated Kay Ernsting for lost wages plus damages. With interest and attorney fees, the final award is likely to swell well beyond $500,000.  Ernsting filed her whistleblower lawsuit seven years ago after the conservative Catholic college created by Domino's Pizza founder Tom Monaghan eliminated Ernsting's position as director of financial aid, shortly after the U.S. Department of Education fined and ordered the college to make repayments of almost $250,000 for improperly issued financial aid.

Testimony indicated that Ernsting and the others refused orders to alter records, and continued to communicate with investigators despite being ordered by superiors at the school to stop.  

Ernsting and her husband faced financial difficulties, including the near-foreclosure of their home before she landed an administrative job at the University of Michigan's Comprehensive Cancer Center. Ernsting is still in psychological counseling.  "Tom Monaghan's money doesn't have anything to do with this," Golden told jurors. "Except that these people shared his mission and the thing he couldn't handle was their honesty and integrity." Ernsting is a devout Catholic who said she was committed to the work of the conservative Catholic school.

Ave Maria University, in Florida, was listed as a defendant in this Michigan suit.

Almost two weeks after Ernsting’s jury verdict, Ave Maria University President Jim Towey attempted to distance AMU from the case by making a clearly incorrect claim (see video part 2) (emphasis added):

"In fact there is a real legal question about whether Ave Maria University

should even be a party to this litigation because it didn't exist at the time."

AMU most certainly did exist at the time of Ernsting’s lawsuit.  In fact, Ave Maria Florida was at the center of the imbroglio.  Shortly after her termination, Ms. Ernsting filed suit in 2004.  The year prior, in 2003, AMU was founded (see image below).

The trial jury found that Ernsting was terminated in retaliation for providing information to a US Department of Education investigation about financial aid abuse involving students on the Florida campus.  That probe ultimately found Ave Maria guilty of illegally using federal aid for students in Florida, forcing the payback of nearly $260,000 to the taxpayers.