A Louisiana State Senate committee called for nine LSU employees and Board of Supervisors members, along with one Taylor Porter attorney associated with a previous LSU investigation, to testify at a hearing Thursday regarding the University’s mishandling of sexual misconduct cases. However, the University confirmed Wednesday that no LSU officials will testify.
This will be the Louisiana Senate Select Committee on Women and Children’s third hearing on this issue, following two previous meetings where multiple prominent members of the LSU community provided accounts of how the University has historically mishandled sexual misconduct cases.
The University’s decision to not provide testimony at the April 8 hearing comes immediately after Speaker Pro Tempore Tanner Magee said that legislators will require LSU to properly address the problems of handling sexual assault cases if the University wishes to continue receiving funds from the state.
Thursday’s hearing will also occur just days after the U.S. Department of Education confirmed it plans to investigate if the University is ‘in compliance with the requirements of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.’
The committee invited the following individuals to testify at Thursday’s hearing:
Athletic Director Scott Woodward
Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron
Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar
Executive Deputy Director Verge Ausberry
Former Board of Supervisors member Ronnie Anderson
Board of Supervisors Executive Director Jason Droddy
Former General Counsel Tom Skinner
Board of Supervisors member James Williams
Title IX Coordinator Jennie Stewart
Taylor Porter attorney Vicki Crochet
Winston G. Decuir Jr., the LSU vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, sent an email to Chairwoman Regina Barrow of the Senate Committee on Wednesday explaining that none of the requested individuals would attend the hearing Thursday in light of Associate Athletic Director of Football Recruiting and Alumni Relations Sharon Lewis’ $50 million lawsuit against the University. Lewis alleges she suffered a pattern of abuse by former LSU football head coach Les Miles, Ausberry and Segar, among other athletics officials.
“We hope that you and the committee understand the University has attempted to be as cooperative as possible by providing unprecedented information in its recent internal investigation and almost 14 hours of testimony in the two prior hearings,” Decuir said. “In light of this threatened litigation, it would not be prudent for persons associated with LSU to provide testimony under oath at the senate committee meeting scheduled tomorrow.”
Although lawmakers have allowed written testimony in similar hearings over the last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barrow said Monday that she intended for all 10 people called to testify to do so in person and said that the given option to submit a written testimony was a clerical oversight, according to WBRZ.
Despite insistence from Barrow that the listed individuals attend the hearing, LSU Media Relations Director Ernie Ballard said that the officials who opted for written testimonies chose one of the two options presented to them.
“They didn’t decline — they were all given the option of attending in person or submitting a letter response to the committee,” Ballard said Tuesday to The Reveille.
Nearly everyone who was summoned declined the invitation or opted to send written testimony in lieu of appearing before the committee; many of these decisions predated the University’s letter that stated that no individuals currently affiliated with LSU would testify.
Stewart wrote that she would be out of town on a “long-planned vacation” the day of the committee hearing.
Anderson, who was replaced on the Board of Supervisors last week, also wrote that he would be unable to attend because he is still recovering from coronavirus, according to the Advocate.
UPDATE: A representative for Anderson reached out to The Reveille after the hearing to clarify that nobody contacted Anderson in regards to testifying at the commitee, and that 'he is disapointed to see his picture on the front page of The Reveille in such a negative light'.
However, no one had contacted Mr. Anderson about testifying and he did not know the committee wanted to hear from him.
Crochet, who conducted a 2013 sexual harassment investigation of Les Miles, said "ethical and legal duties prohibit me from sharing information about Taylor Porter's representation of LSU."
Droddy originally requested more information regarding the type of questions the committee wanted to ask but later sent a letter Wednesday noting that he won’t be attending because of Sharon Lewis’ impending lawsuit. Skinner also cited Lewis’ lawsuit as his reason for not attending the hearing.
Williams was the only invitee who did not publicly indicate whether he would attend the hearing, but as he is a Board of Supervisors member, the University’s letter indicates that he will not testify.
Following the Nov. 16 release of a USA Today article detailing the University’s failures in handling Title IX cases, LSU Head Football Coach Ed Orgeron established in a press conference that there is no tolerance for sexual misconduct in his program and confirmed his trust in the University to properly handle misconduct allegations.
“I have in the past and will continue to take appropriate action and comply with reporting protocols,” Orgeron said. “I have confidence that the University is working to address our policies and processes when allegations arise.”
During a March 26 committee hearing, Superdome employee Gloria Scott testified that in December 2017, then-LSU football running back Derrius Guice sexually harassed her at a high school football championship game. Scott said she reported the incident directly to Orgeron and requested that Guice be suspended from the upcoming Citrus Bowl.
Orgeron stated in an interview with Husch Blackwell that he never directly spoke to the victim, a claim Scott called a “lie” during her testimony.
“Coach O is telling a lie,” Scott said. “He’s not telling the truth. I don’t have no reason to lie. I know who I was talking to. He knows he talked to me.”
Following Scott’s testimony, Orgeron was requested to either testify before the committee or submit a letter discussing his knowledge of the situation. Orgeron opted to submit a letter to the committee on Tuesday, reiterating that he did not speak to Scott over the phone, but included that his memory of the conversation was “vague.”
Barrow issued a statement Tuesday evening regarding Orgeron’s decision to not attend the hearing.
“Coach Orgeron and all those involved in this matter owe it to those ladies to stop with this dismissive behavior and to own up to what occurred, taking responsibility for the actions that took place and the cover-up that followed,” Barrow said.
Rep. Aimee Freeman told the Daily Advertiser on Wednesday that the committee is now exploring the possibility of issuing a subpoena for Orgeron.
Verge Ausberry and Miriam Segar
Both Executive Deputy Athletic Director Verge Ausberry and Senior Associate Athletic Director Miriam Segar, who received unpaid suspensions at the beginning of March for their multiple failures in reporting Title IX violations, were also requested to attend the hearing.
Ausberry, whose 30-day suspension ended this Sunday, declined the invitation in a letter on Tuesday, citing that he will be “out of town and unable to attend.”
Segar’s attorney also submitted a letter to the committee Tuesday, stating that her client will not be personally attending the hearing. The letter stated that Husch Blackwell “does not know how to do a thorough investigation” and that there were “numerous misrepresentations about Ms. Segar’s conduct of her job.”
“Ms. Segar has zero to hide but will wait for the appropriate time and venue to express her claims and defenses,” the letter read.
Interim President Thomas Galligan, who spoke at the March 10 committee hearing, has faced ongoing scrutiny from Senate committee members regarding his decision to not fire Segar, Ausberry or anyone else implicated in the Husch Blackwell report.
Students also displayed their disappointment with Galligan’s decision to suspend the pair by leading a sit-in protest days before the March 10 hearing, blocking any entrance or exit to the parking lot of the LSU Football Operations Center, with one of the protesters' signs reading “LSU is complicit, suspension is not enough.”
Athletic Director Scott Woodward was previously scheduled to testify at the seven-hour March 26 hearing, though it ended before he was able to speak. Barrow personally asked Woodward to attend the next committee hearing.
“You know I will,” Woodward replied.
Despite this promise, Woodward opted out of attending Thursday’s hearing and submitted a written statement to the committee Tuesday. Woodward attached an outline of the steps LSU is taking to address its Title IX failures and further established his confidence in Galligan’s decision to suspend Ausberry and Segar.
“I fully support the recommendations of the Husch Blackwell report and the actions taken by President Galligan to address the shortcomings of the past,” the letter read.
Segar, who was formerly considered the point of contact for Title IX cases in the Athletics Department, said in an interview with Husch Blackwell that the mandate for all employees to report violations directly to the Title IX coordinator has been clarified since Woodward became athletic director in 2019.
“We note again that since Scott Woodward took over direction of the Athletics Department in 2019, community members, students and employees within Athletics have indicated that the situation has improved” the report read.