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Advocate file photo -- LSU's Tiger Stadium

In its strongest actions to date in the ongoing sexual harassment scandal at LSU, the university terminated Taylor Porter, its law firm for the past 80 years, and is preparing a “vote of disapproval” resolution saying the Board of Supervisors disapproves of three former members not telling the rest of the board about the allegation of misconduct made in 2013 against then-football coach Les Miles.

LSU administrators and board members have been pilloried for only suspending two employees and transferring two others after a scathing report by the Husch Blackwell law firm last month that documented years of officials covering up sexual misconduct complaints made by students.

“These are difficult decisions, and the board has tried to work to get it right,” LSU board Chair Robert Dampf told The Advocate | The Times-Picayune on Friday night. “We regret some of the actions we’ve had to take. But these are very complicated, fact-specific issues. They take time.”

Dampf noted that these actions, some of which are still in the works, partially address what has taken place in the past. Going forward the university already is establishing stronger protocols for addressing and investigating complaints, with definitive discipline when not followed; establishing a Title IX office in the center of the Baton Rouge campus; and hiring an expanded staff with expertise in harassment complaints and the federal law, Title IX, that governs them.

The university also is in the process of banning Derrius Guice from all future LSU activities and will remove his statistics from LSU record books.

The star running back was charged in three separate domestic violence incidents in 2020 and two women accused him of sexual assault while he was a freshman in 2016. A third LSU student had complained in 2016 that Guice had taken a partially nude photo of her, without her knowledge, then showed the pictures to his teammates.

LSU also imposed a bit of additional discipline on Verge Ausberry, an assistant athletic director who received a text message in 2018 from a football player who admitted to hitting his girlfriend. Ausberry did not report the incident to police or Title IX, and the player went on to abuse his girlfriend for several more months, breaking into her apartment and nearly strangling her one night.

Ausberry already has served a 30-day suspension without pay and is continuing training on how to handle sexual misconduct complaints. The punishment was light in part because LSU, at the time, had confusing rules on to whom to report such incidents and his superiors had covered up similar instances in the past.

LSU interim President Tom Galligan said Friday night that administrators were looking for some additional way to discipline Ausberry that would be meaningful to him and decided on not allowing him to attend football games for the upcoming season.

“We continue to review the issues arising out of the Husch Blackwell report,” Galligan said.

Taylor Porter, a Baton Rouge law firm, was notified Friday that the firm would be removed from pending litigation because of a lawsuit filed by an LSU employee who claims to have been retaliated against for trying to bring to light the mishandling of sexual harassment claims.

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Dampf said the move was mostly because the law firm was named as a co-defendant along with LSU in the lawsuit. Co-defendants often have conflicting claims, plus he didn’t like the optics of the law firm defending LSU in other cases while sharing the defense table in this lawsuit, Dampf said.

Galligan said Taylor Porter was representing LSU in several ongoing Baton Rouge lawsuits and one in Alexandria. The university will reevaluate the relationship after the litigation by the LSU employee is finished, he added.

But a board member said privately, “We tried to offer Taylor Porter a soft landing and they didn’t want to take it.”

“We regret that our relationship with LSU has ended amid publicly disseminated misinformation and false accusations involving matters over which our ethical obligations to LSU preclude us from correcting and defending,” David Shelby, Taylor Porter’s general counsel, said Friday night.

On May 15, 2013, the law firm met with only three of the 16 LSU board members — Hank Danos, Bobby Yarborough and Stanley Jacobs, none of whom is still serving — plus then-athletic director Joe Alleva and senior associate athletic director Miriam Segar to review allegations of improper behavior lodged by two female students against Miles. They agreed on how to discipline Miles, who still maintains his innocence, and that the allegations should be kept quiet.

“Those present agreed that this was appropriate administrative action that could and should be taken without further review by the full Board,” stated the Taylor Porter memo of the meeting.

Shelby says the firm acted ethically and properly.

“Our firm’s attorneys made no recommendations about who should be informed of the results of the investigation. Indeed, it was not our place to do so in light of the issues presented by the investigation. Any suggestion that Taylor Porter orchestrated or participated in a cover-up is absolutely false, and, in time, the full record will make this clear,” Shelby said.

A resolution voicing disapproval of the three supervisors for not telling their colleagues about the allegations in 2013 — the Miles situation was made public in March — is being prepared for a vote at the next board meeting. Husch Blackwell felt that the circumstances at LSU would not have become so grave had the Miles affair been handled better. 

Dampf said the names of the three will not be included in the resolution. Rather, LSU wants to put on record that such actions are unacceptable. The resolution will include wording that any “similar personnel matters should be shared with the full board going forward.”

“The resolution is designed to show what we think is a better way to do business. All members are entitled to the information,” Dampf said.


Email Mark Ballard at mballard@theadvocate.com.