USF denies discrimination

USF has denied that it used race as a determining factor to terminate former employee James Dragna.

Dragna, former senior associate vice president of student affairs, filed a legal complaint with the Hillsborough County Circuit Court last month, accusing his former boss, Student Affairs Vice President Jennifer Meningall, of firing him because of his race (Dragna is white and Meningall is black).

He has since pulled his case from the Circuit Court and has filed a lawsuit against USF with the United States District Court.

In its legal response filed June 23, USF denies that Meningall used Dragna’s race to determine his dismissal and states that the University “relied upon legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons for its employment actions and would have made the same decisions without regard to his race and/or protected conduct (if any).”

The University also denies that Dragna is entitled to his requested compensation for damages, including lost pay and lost benefits, or to be reinstated to his former or a similar position.

On July 19, Dragna complained to President Judy Genshaft’s executive assistant that Meningall had “been engaging in a pattern of racially discriminatory conduct in the workplace,” according to court documents filed by Dragna.

About a week later, Meningall told him that she had heard of his complaint and that since she “could no longer trust him,” she would not be renewing his contract in October. Before his contract ended, Dragna was second in command to Meningall.

In its response, the University denies that these conversations took place.

In October, Dragna sent an e-mail to 80 University officials, including Genshaft, that prompted two investigations of Meningall. The e-mail claimed that she mistreated employees and misallocated funds.

The first investigation, by the University Office of Audit and Compliance (UAC), found that Mengingall did not mishandle funds. The second, by the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity (DEO), found that she did not violate USF’s diversity policy, but that she requires additional training to professionally handle her job.

The University declined to comment on the case, said Michael Hoad, vice president of communications.

Dragna’s lawyer, Robert McKee, could not be reached for comment at press time.