Former adviser sues university for terminating contract

MISSOURI — A former college newspaper adviser filed a lawsuit Wednesdayagainst Central Missouri State University alleging her termination wasin response to stories covered in the school’s newspaper.

Barbara Lach-Smith, who advised the Muleskinnerstaff for sixyears, said her contract was not renewed because of stories uncoveringunusual stipulations in out-going university President Ed Elliott’s contract,including $620,000 in severance pay, special benefits for Elliott’s wifeand personal computer services.

James Rynard, Lach-Smith’s attorney, said he is confident he can provethat the school violated Lach-Smith’s civil rights and infringed on students’First Amendment rights.

“We’re very confident in our claims,” Rynard said. “I think that we’regoing to see a big fight by the university; they are probably going toclaim they followed all the proper procedures and there was no retaliation,but I think we have a strong case to show that that was indeed the case.I think we can show their alleged following of procedures was just pretext,that they had every intent to not allow her to continue in the job.”

The contract information uncovered by the MuleskinnerpromptedState Auditor Claire McCaskill to investigate the school. McCaskill’s reportfound “improper compensation and perquisites” in Elliott’s contract.

Central Missouri State officials contend that Lach-Smith’s contractwas not renewed because school administrators decided to make the newspaperadviser a tenure-track position. Officials said Lach-Smith was consideredfor the new tenure-track position but was not one of the four finalistsselected.

Rynard said Lach-Smith is suing to get her job back.

“[She wants] reinstatement to her position,” Rynard said. “She likesthe newspaper and likes the students she works with.”