Judge refuses to dismiss suit against LSU by former IT administrators

A 19th Judicial District Court judge has refused to dismiss a 2-year-old lawsuit against LSU, former LSU President F. King Alexander and former Chief Financial Officer Dan Layzell filed by three former IT administrators, who were forced to resign from the university for failing to comply with a little-known state law requiring them to register their vehicles in the state as a condition of employment.

In February, attorneys for LSU filed a motion for summary judgment asking 19th Judicial District Court Judge Trudy White to dismiss the suit. But following a hearing earlier this week, White denied the motion and encouraged the two sides to work toward a settlement, court records show.

While the unusual case has been largely forgotten in the wake of more recent, high-profile controversies at LSU, the lawsuit made headlines when it was filed in May 2019 by three IT administrators, who accused the university of negligence, fraud, misrepresentation and breach of contract.

At issue is an obscure 2013 state law requiring unclassified state employees who earn more than $100,000 per year to register their vehicles in the state and obtain a Louisiana driver’s license.

The three former LSU administrators were out-of-state IT experts, who were hired by the university in 2017 yet continued to claim Illinois as their primary residence.

The suit claims the plaintiffs were not informed of the law by LSU until nearly two years after their hiring, and that the university waited until March 2019—after an audit into the issue had been completed—to tell them it was a requirement of their continued employment.

When media reports of the controversy circulated, LSU agreed to hire the administrators back on a contract basis if they agreed to resign. The university later rescinded the offer.

In its motion seeking to dismiss the case, LSU attorneys argued that the plaintiffs had an obligation to know the law and comply with it.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Larry Bankston, argued that LSU had the obligation to make the administrators aware of the requirements in the law at the time of their hiring.

Both sides note in dueling court briefs that, “ignorance of the law is no excuse for noncompliance.”

White’s ruling earlier this week clears the way for the case to move forward. Bankston says he will now attempt to depose Alexander, who was recently forced to step down as president of Oregon State University in connection with the Title IX scandal at LSU, and Layzell, who is CFO at Cornell College in Iowa.

A spokesman for LSU did not return to a request for comment before this morning’s publication.