Southern University is refusing to release its investigation into a law school faculty member who was at the center of a recent firestorm involving Baton Rouge's Council on Aging, saying providing the report to The Advocate would violate the professor's privacy.
Dorothy Jackson, a professor specializing in elder and succession law at Southern University Law Center, runs the school's Elder Law Clinic, which employs law students to provide free legal services to the poor and elderly.
East Baton Rouge Council on Aging board member and attorney Dorothy Jackson has been placed …
Jackson, a board member and the former attorney for the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging, was placed on administrative leave in April while the school said it would investigate the law clinic. Jackson offered legal services to now-deceased Helen Plummer, acting as her attorney and notarizing her will in July 2016 at Southern's law clinic. After her death, Plummer's family accused both Jackson and the Council on Aging's executive director Tasha Clark-Amar of swindling a 95-year-old grandmother who they say was not of sound mind, as the will awarded Clark-Amar $120,000 over the next 20 years to oversee Plummer's trust. The trust is valued at about $314,000, based on Plummer's assets.
Southern University spokesman Henry Tillman confirmed Wednesday that Jackson is still on administrative leave. Jackson, contacted by phone, declined comment Wednesday, but she has previously denied any wrongdoing.
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Winston DeCuir, an attorney representing the Southern University Board of Supervisors, said in a letter to The Advocate that he could "confirm that the University has conducted an investigation into Professor Jackson's role as an Administrator, with the Southern University Elder Law Clinic, and her relationship with the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging."
In his letter, Decuir added that the investigation resulted in a "single report" about Jackson's conduct and her performance as a Southern law center employee.
The Advocate requested the documents related to the investigation from Southern under Louisiana's open records laws. But Decuir said that providing the investigation would infringe on her privacy rights.
"As a private citizen, Professor Jackson has the constitutional right to be 'secure in (her) person, property, communications, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches, seizures, or invasions of privacy,'" Decuir said.
But an attorney representing The Advocate said the public is entitled to see the content of the report.
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"The public has an acute interest in ensuring that public business is subject to public scrutiny, particularly where, as here, a public employee has been investigated for her conduct in carrying out the functions of her public employer," said Scott Keaty, the lawyer representing the newspaper. "More specifically, the substance and results of such an investigation must be disclosed in order that the public can be confident in the operations of its government — both in how governmental employees have acted and how investigations of such employees have been conducted. There is simply no reasonable expectation of privacy in such situations."
The Council on Aging has been under fire for months, since Plummer's family came forward with the allegation that Jackson and Clark-Amar coerced their grandmother into an arrangement that paid Clark-Amar $500 a month for 20 years, an arrangement that is far above the going rate for such a service.
Clark-Amar voluntarily withdrew as executor of the estate amid the backlash, but she contended she had a genuine relationship with Plummer before she died and would visit her often. She is suing the Plummer family for defamation in state court.
State District Court Judge Don Johnson removed Clark-Amar from overseeing Plummer's estate in April. Jackson stepped down from her role as attorney for the estate.
However, both Clark-Amar and Jackson retain their positions with the Council on Aging despite calls for their resignation.
Jackson is one of two Southern University employees with ties to the Council on Aging who are currently on administrative leave.
Brandon Dumas, the vice chancellor for student affairs, was the Council on Aging's board chairman, but he resigned in May after reports surfaced he no longer lived in the parish and was in violation of the board's bylaws. Dumas was placed on leave by the university last month within days of reports that Southern was investigating a sex tape circulating on the internet that may have involved a student and a school employee. His leave also was preceded by a report Southern had been put on a warning list that it could lose its accreditation. The school did not say whether Dumas' leave was related to either of the issues.
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