The Louisiana 1st Circuit Court of Appeal Tuesday denied former Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter’s appeal seeking more than $110,000 in unused vacation and sick leave time.
A three-judge panel agreed with a state district court ruling that based Slaughter’s accrued time off on his $220,000 base salary, and not his total $468,000 pay package that included private foundation dollars.
First Circuit Judge Toni M. Higginbotham, of Baton Rouge, partially dissented with the majority ruling, arguing that Slaughter’s overall “wage” should have been counted.
The 1st Circuit panel also included judges James E. Kuhn, Ponchatoula, and John T. Pettigrew, of Houma.
The court rejected Slaughter’s appeal of a ruling ordering him to pay $8,000 in fines and attorney fees.
Slaughter left Southern in 2009 when his contract expired and the Southern Board of Supervisors refused to keep him as president. That contract was the settlement result of Slaughter’s 2007 litigation against the Southern Board of Supervisors.
Slaughter has remained in litigation with Southern ever since he lost his job.
Slaughter is currently receiving nearly $294,000 in annual retirement benefits from his more than 30 years of state employment. It is based on his total compensation when he lost his job, including Foundation payments.
A court ruling last year prevented the Louisiana State Employees Retirement System from lowering his retirement payments.
Jill Craft, Slaughter’s lawyer, said the plan is to appeal Tuesday’s ruling for a 1st Circuit rehearing or to the Louisiana Supreme Court. “It’s good for us that it’s a two-to-one opinion, with a strong dissent,” Craft said.
In December 2009, 19th Judicial District Judge Tim Kelley, of Baton Rouge, threw out Slaughter’s claims for payment of accumulated annual and sick leave.
Kelley had agreed with Southern’s deduction of about $30,000 from Slaughter’s final pay check for furniture and other items Slaughter took from his office and from the president’s suite in A.W. Mumford stadium.
Kelley also ordered Slaughter to pay $8,000 in fines and attorney fees for what the judge ruled were frivolous efforts to disqualify Kelley and 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark, of Baton Rouge, from that case.
Kelley had refused to withdraw from the case. Slaughter claimed the judge had a conflict of interest because he is married to then state Commissioner of Administration Angèle Davis.
The 1st Circuit sided with Kelley on Tuesday.
“Accordingly, all of Dr. Slaughter’s claims against the Board of Supervisors of Southern University are dismissed,” the ruling stated.
“After a complete review of the record, we find no manifest error in the trial court’s decision to impose sanctions against Dr. Slaughter,” the ruling added. “Nor did the trial judge abuse his discretion in the amount of sanctions and attorney fees imposed.”
In dissenting, Higginbotham argued the sanctions were unwarranted because the initial motion to recuse Kelley “was timely and not frivolous.”
Lewis Unglesby, who represented the Southern Board in court, said the dissent is technical and that no one disputes what Slaughter took.
“I hope that he will accept these rulings and go on and have a quality life,” Unglesby said.
Slaughter still has wrongful termination litigation pending in federal court, which has stalled because it was in the court of U.S. District Judge Ralph Tyson, who died last month.
When Kelley dismissed Slaughter’s claims, he referred to the former Southern president as the “least credible” witness he had seen in his courtroom. Kelley said Slaughter’s departure marked the end of a “very dark era” in Southern history.