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Former USF employee refutes resignation story

Ben McCurry, former special assistant to Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall, has come forward challenging his former boss’ claim that he resigned.

McCurry maintains he was fired for having a conversation.

Now one of Meningall’s former associates holds McCurry’s position, which is one of many concerns raised in an e-mail from Student Affairs Associate VP James Dragna accusing Menigall of improper and illegal dealings in her role as the head of Student Affairs.

After a budget meeting in which Meningall said that low funds might lead to lay-offs in the department, McCurry said he was caught speculating aloud that Dragna, the second-most senior employee in Student Affairs, might be getting the axe.

It was a conjecture that landed McCurry in a meeting with Meningall and a representative from Human Resources, he said.

McCurry admitted to speaking with other members of Student Affairs about Dragna, and said he was later asked to pack his belongings, turn in his key and leave the premises.

“I was fired for a breach of confidentiality, but I didn’t know anything,” he said. “(Meningall) had never told me anything concerning Dr. Dragna. I had a speculative conversation.”

Last week Meningall told the Oracle that she was unsure why McCurry chose to resign.

“He performed well for three months before (his resignation),” Meningall said. “He seemed fond of the work he was doing. (The resignation) was a formal action of his.”

An HR document obtained by the Oracle corroborated McCurry’s assertion. The form letter informed McCurry of his termination and allowed him five days to produce a written statement in his defense.

Meningall said Tuesday that the letter was sent as an HR mistake. McCurry was placed on administrative leave and later tendered a letter of resignation.

“If it was an HR error,” McCurry said, “why did I lose my job?”

In a letter to Meningall written in response to his termination, McCurry stated, “even though I am truly sorry for my actions at USF and have learned a hard lesson, I do not wish to have my job back.”

He said that the letter was not meant as a resignation, but as a plea for leniency.

“The University of South Florida is a huge employer,” he said. “I wanted to use them on my resume.”

Meningall’s former associate, Beverly Sims, was then called in to take over the position of special assistant July 26 – the day after McCurry left.

Sims – who worked as Meningall’s assistant at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee – had been working as the director of the First Generation Program in Student Affairs at USF.

The program recently lost its state funding and was no longer fiscally solvent.

Sims was a convenient fit for the interim position as special assistant, said Meningall.

Sims’ original hiring and eventual transfer drew criticism from Dragna, who described them as an example of Meningall’s misallocation of resources. She unfairly filled positions with acquaintances, and failed to conduct proper searches, he said.

After his departure, McCurry moved to Atlanta where he is currently looking for a job.

Joshua Neiderer can be reached at (813) 974-5190 or oracleeditor@gmail.com.