Judge rules Follins can’t claim damages

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Dr. Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College.  File

Dr. Craig Follins, former president of Northeast Lakeview College. File

By Kyle R. Cotton

kcotton11@student.alamo.edu

A former president of Northeast Lakeview College cannot sue Alamo Colleges for damages related to the potential release of documents concerning his dismissal, a Travis County judge ruled Sept. 14.

A Travis County district judge ruled in favor of Alamo Colleges’ motion for summary judgment denying a claim for $1 million in damages brought by Craig Follins concerning the potential release of information on his termination.

Former NLC president has 30 days to appeal.

The judge also approved a summary judgment motion from Attorney General Ken Paxton in a lawsuit on whether information under the Texas Public Information Act can be released to The Ranger and the San Antonio Express-News.

Summary judgment means the facts in the case are not in dispute.

“As a political subdivision of the State of Texas, Alamo (Colleges) may not be sued for money damages absent an express waiver of immunity by the Texas Legislature, for which there is none in this case,” Alamo Colleges argues.

“… while the TPIA provides for the recovery of attorney’s fee under some circumstances, it does not allow a third-party seeking to maintain the confidentiality of his records to recover fees from the custodial governmental entity, particularly when that entity that has complied with the TPIA by requesting a determination from (the office of the attorney general).”

Alamo Colleges followed procedures in the Public Information Act by seeking the attorney general’s opinion on whether information on Follins’ termination could be released.

According to Follins’ appeal against the Alamo Colleges’ motion, Follins’ plea for damages of more than $1 million was done as a precaution.

“Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 47 requires that a plaintiff plead damages in certain categories contained in the rule.

“Should the injunctions prayed for not be granted, it is entirely realistic to project that Dr. Follins’ economic injury could exceed $1 million,” Follins’ attorney Stephen Menn wrote in the lawsuit.

Menn also wrote that any case against the Alamo Colleges would more likely be pursued under 42 U.S. Code Section 1983, which would be prosecuted at the U.S. district court level.

Follins is alleged to have engaged in abusive behavior toward faculty and staff at Northeast Lakeview before he was terminated as president Oct. 29, according to Follins’ affidavit to the court.

Roxella Cavazos, associate general counsel for Alamo Colleges, said Follins has 30 days to appeal once the final paperwork is filed in the case.

Menn told The Ranger Sept. 26 he doesn’t know whether Follins will appeal the judge’s ruling and doesn’t want to give his opinion on the judge’s ruling yet.

The Ranger filed a public information act request Nov. 18 after Follins was removed from his position as Northeast Lakeview president via a termination memorandum written by Chancellor Bruce Leslie.

“You have once again violated expectations set for you and engaged in a pattern of unacceptable behavior,” Leslie wrote.

The attorney general ruled in The Ranger’s favor Feb. 24.

“Upon review, we find none of the submitted information at issue is highly intimate or embarrassing information and of no legitimate public interest, and it may not be withheld,” the attorney general’s decision said.

Follins was reassigned as special projects administrator — a position that did not exist previously — and kept his salary of $205,387.03 to “analyze and provide recommendations on the market opportunities for distance learning.”

Follins resigned from that position in August to pursue a position at Houston Community College, which pulled the offer after further investigation by the HCC district into allegations of alleged abusive behavior.

By resigning, Follins has forgone the approximately $90,000 as part of a settlement agreement, according to Follins’ affidavit.

Click here for: ACCD motion for summary judgement.

Click here for: Attorney General Ken Paxton’s motion for summary judgement.

Click here for: Dr. Craig Follin’s appeal against Paxton’s motion.

Click here for:Dr. Craig Follins’ affidavit to keep documents private.

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