After being fired as the executive director of MAPS in January, Sam Minniti is alleging that he’s the victim of wrongful dismissal. He’s suing MAPS, McMaster University and some of his former colleagues for more than $500,000 altogether in damages.

The University and MAPS are now each in the process of reviewing their legal options. This is the second major lawsuit McMaster University has been named in during the past year.

Court documents dated Monday, May 27 state that Minniti is seeking the following:

Against MAPS and McMaster University:

$225,000 for wrongful dismissal and breach of contract/unpaid wages

$88,116.75 for unjust enrichment

$100,000 for mental distress and punitive damages

Against former MAPS president and board members:

$88,116.75 for unpaid wages and vacation pay

In 2012, the University’s audit of MAPS spurred concerns about the organization’s business practices and spending. Of the organization's revenue of $507,035 in 2011, more than $300,000 went to salaries and benefits. Minniti himself received $101,117 in retroactive back pay and a $12,000 bonus in addition to a substantial raise the previous year. Minniti was fired in January amid allegations that he spent MAPS funds on personal engagements.

But the court papers Minniti has filed tell a different story. He claims he was approached by McMaster’s chief human resources officer with the prospect of an updated job description. Minniti claims his raise and back pay were endorsed by the MAPS board of directors, and that the board later notified him they were not in a position to deposit the second half of the back pay.

Citing a series of purported letters between himself, then-president Jeanette Hunter and the board of directors, Minniti maintains he was only fired because he chose the rest of his back pay over his job. Minniti claims he could not forgive the rest of the back pay because he had purchased a home and refrained from exploring other job opportunities.

Despite being criticized for receiving retroactive back pay, Minniti claims he’s still owed $88,116.75 in wages not paid to him under a contract that he says MAPS broke.

Although MAPS and McMaster University are independent organizations, Minniti has named both as corporate defendants.

“McMaster is reviewing its options but is surprised to be included in a statement of claim by someone who was not a University employee,” wrote McMaster spokesperson Gord Arbeau. “Now that the matter is before the courts, we cannot provide further comment.”

MAPS’ legal counsel has not provided any comment.

Since the MAPS spending scandal was brought to light, Minniti has remained largely silent about his position. He has not commented thus far on the lawsuit.

Reports of Minniti’s lawsuit sprung up a day after the McMaster board of governors voted to stop collecting fees temporarily from part-time students. MAPS president Andrew Smith said MAPS is consulting with the University on by-law revisions and anticipates the suspension will be lifted by early fall.

MAPS's budget is funded entirely by student fees. Without other sources of revenue, any legal fees would need to be paid with monies collected from part-time students.

Minniti’s full statement can be found here.

For all of the Silhouette's MAPS coverage since the spending scandal broke, click here.

This article was updated on June 17 at 20:33 ET.

McMaster librarian Dale Askey

Edwin Mellen Press has announced in a press release that it will not pursue its libel suit against McMaster University and Dale Askey, a McMaster librarian.

EMP launched a $3.5 million lawsuit against the University and Askey in February over a 2010 post on Askey’s personal blog. EMP claimed that the post (still active) contains defamatory statements that slander the publishing company. McMaster was brought into the lawsuit on the grounds that the University refused to demand that Askey take down his blog post.

The press release made no specific mention of a separate $1 million lawsuit against Askey launched by Herbert Richardson, founder of EMP.

"All I know is what's in that press release. I'm awaiting further information before drawing any conclusions or making any comments," said Askey in an e-mail.

On Feb. 19, the Association of Canadian University Presses released an Open Letter to the Scholarly Community. The letter urged EMP to “withdraw this lawsuit” and found that Dale Askey’s comments “fall well within the range of fair comment.”

A petition on Change.org that calls for the end of EMP's libel lawsuit has gotten more than 3,100 signatures.

In the March 1 press release sent to the Silhouette, EMP stated: “financial pressure of the social media campaign and press on authors is severe. EMP is a small company. Therefore [it] must choose to focus its resources on its business and serving its authors.”

Andrea Farquhar, McMaster spokesperson, said this morning that the University was not contacted by EMP with the press release, and is seeking official confirmation that the lawsuit will be dropped.

Although EMP says it will no longer pursue the court case, it did not make any apologies for taking legal action in the first place: “EMP remains resolute that all have the right to free speech. Equally, all have the right to take steps, including legal action, to protect their good names and reputation.”

UPDATE: The University confirmed with its lawyers this afternoon that a 'notice of discontinuance' was sent by EMP to McMaster's legal counsel.

"We're pleased by the Press's decision [not to go through with this case]," said Gord Arbeau, a McMaster spokesperson. "This is good news for all those across North America who have supported McMaster's position in defence of academic freedom."

As for the second lawsuit against Askey in which McMaster University was not named, Arbeau said "that piece is still not clear at this point."

The University is not obligated to take action in the lawsuit against Askey if the suit persists.

 

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