Southern University Law Center Chancellor John Pierre has recommended firing Dorothy Jackson, the professor and elder law clinic director who wrote a will in 2016 that has led to continuing fallout in Baton Rouge.
Jackson wrote the will in July 2016 for the elderly Helen Plummer, who was an East Baton Rouge Council on Aging client. Plummer's will included steep payments for Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark-Amar to oversee Plummer's estate and trusts. Jackson sits on the Council on Aging's board.
Plummer's family claimed they had never heard of Clark-Amar until Plummer died, at age 95, and the Council on Aging head called about the estate. The family accused Clark-Amar of swindling Plummer. Both Clark-Amar and Jackson later removed themselves from the will and estate. The incident has sprouted multiple lawsuits.
A Southern Law Center faculty panel that held a hearing in December 2017 about the matter found that Jackson behaved unprofessionally and that her conduct caused Southern Law to be viewed in a bad light. They recommended that Jackson be suspended a year without pay, lose her tenure and receive a demotion in rank.
But Pierre sent a letter Jan. 31 to Southern University System President Ray Belton that asks for stiffer penalties. In the letter, which The Advocate obtained, Pierre wrote that he disagreed with the faculty panel's proposed punishment. He said the "cumulative effect of all the committee's findings … warrant a recommendation of termination of the employment of Professor Dorothy Jackson."
Plummer's grandson, Dan Freeman, said in January that Jackson should be fired and that the suspension was not enough to make up for her alleged conduct.
The Advocate filed a public records request to Southern concerning Pierre's commendation on Feb. 7 and still has not received a response. Jackson's New Orleans-based attorney, Bill Aaron, also said Wednesday that Southern had not communicated with him about Pierre's recommendation for Jackson. After multiple media outlets reported that Pierre recommended firing Jackson, Aaron said he finally received communication about it late Wednesday afternoon.
"This whole thing is really twisted," Aaron said.
The decision now rests with Belton. Southern spokeswoman Janene Tate confirmed Wednesday that Belton had received Pierre's recommendation. She said Belton has made a decision that's being reviewed by Southern's legal counsel, and that Jackson will be notified of the decision before it's publicly released.
Aaron argued that Jackson should have been informed immediately after Pierre made his recommendation to Belton. Not doing so violates Southern's faculty handbooks and guidelines, Aaron said. And he said Southern's allegations against Jackson have been a moving target.
Aaron accused Southern of turning Jackson into a scapegoat, and also said Pierre's recommendation to fire Jackson turned him into a Pontius Pilate-like figure.
"The chancellor is posturing himself in the best light so he doesn't get sued by the family or anything else," Aaron said. "Southern system be damned and Dorothy Jackson be damned."
Aaron added that he expects Jackson's employment proceedings to "wind up in court."
Many more investigations into Jackson and Clark-Amar's behavior are ongoing. The State Office of Inspector General opened a probe into the matter, along with the Louisiana Board of Ethics and the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.