An attorney representing four former LSU administrators—forced to resign earlier this spring for failing to comply with an obscure state law—is fighting back with a letter detailing how he says the university wronged his clients.
Attorney Larry Bankston says LSU failed to tell his clients—four IT experts hired by the university in 2017—about a 2013 state law requiring unclassified state employees earning more than $100,000 per year to register their vehicles in the state and get a Louisiana driver’s license.
All four administrators, who claimed Illinois as their primary residence, earned more than $100,000.
In an April 11 letter sent to members of the Louisiana Board of Regents, several state lawmakers and an attorney for the LSU Board of Supervisors, Bankston says LSU officials didn’t tell his clients about the law at the time of their hiring and, in fact, didn’t make them aware of it until late January. Even then, the university waited until March—after an audit into the issue was completed—to tell them it was a requirement of their continued employment.
“It is quite evident LSU was either negligent in not implementing the law or simply decided to ignore the law,” Bankston writes. “This entire situation was a total failure by the senior leadership of LSU.”
The letter goes on to detail an offer LSU made to the administrators in early March—in what Bankston describes as an effort to make negative media attention into the issue go away—agreeing to hire them back on a contract basis if they would resign.
All four agreed to the deal, according to Bankston. But LSU later rescinded the offer “because of the media attention,” the letter says.
The letter goes on to suggest LSU may have targeted the administrators for giving top brass at the university advice they didn’t want to hear about the need to replace the university’s central, IBM mainframe computer, which is aging and no longer supported by IBM.
“The current IBM mainframe was placing the university at a high risk of collapse,” the letter alleges. “LSU remains the only school in the SEC that is utilizing this ancient system.”
Bankston says his clients, including former Chief Technology Officer Andrea Ballinger, had warned against entering into a $5.1 million annual contract to outsource operations and maintenance of the mainframe for the next five years, which she believed would put the university at “significant operational risk” of failure … without taking any steps to position the university to solve the overall infrastructure in the future,” Bankston writes.
“Did the senior staff at LSU decide that these ‘outsiders’ were no longer needed because of the bad news they brought about the status of ITS?” he says. “Were they being punished because of their legitimate concern over the failing information technology infrastructure?”
The letter is not the first Bankston has written to LSU on behalf of his clients, though it is the first he has shared publicly. He says the missive was not intended to try to exercise leverage over LSU and reach a settlement.
“We’ve already tried that,” he says. “Litigation is in the cards.”
A spokesman for LSU provided a letter by the Board of Supervisors’ attorney, Carlton Jones, III in response to a previous letter from Bankston. In it, Jones says he appreciates that the administrators were unaware of the law, but that the university is legally required to enforce it. He acknowledges an offer was discussed with the administrators to rehire them as contractors, but says, “even if it had been offered and accepted, the proposed appointment would have been at will and would not have guaranteed any particular hours of work or amount of payment.”
As for the IT system, LSU spokesman Ernie Ballard says LSU has been discussing a solution for years, “but cost is a major factor for replacing the system, and the university has had to find ways to continue with the current system.”