[ NEWS ]






 - By Jason A. Vrtis
 - Arizona Daily Wildcat
 - January 16, 1997

Ex-Campus Rec head alleges discrimination

The former Campus Recreation Department director has filed a notice of claim with the Arizona Attorney General's Office alleging he was unlawfully forced to resign and was discriminated against by the UA and two of his superiors because of a disability.

Grant Smith is claiming damages totaling $6 million against the University of Arizona; Dr. Murray DeArmond, director of Campus Health and Wellness Services; and Saundra Taylor, vice president for student affairs and campus life.

Smith and his former attorney, George Brown of Whitehill, Linden, Grynkewich and Halladay, filed the claim Aug. 27 after unsuccessfully appealing Smith's resignation with the UA's Affirmative Action Office and UA President Manuel Pacheco's office last summer. He also filed a complaint with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission and is waiting for his grievance to process.

After nine years as director of Campus Recreation, Smith resigned May 21. In the claim, which Smith gave the Arizona Daily Wildcat, he states that DeArmond, without explanation, asked him to resign or be terminated. It was then that Smith said he wrote a two sentence resignation under duress.

Smith said he has been diagnosed with clinical depression since 1978. The disability is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

He said he told DeArmond of his disability in November 1992 and asked that DeArmond acknowledge his disease and help him control it in the workplace.

Smith said he also continued to request DeArmond's assistance throughout the next four years, but DeArmond declined to help him. DeArmond is a licensed psychiatrist.

But in a letter to Smith's former attorney, Brown, responding to a letter appealing the UA Affirmative Action Office's decision, Pacheco stated, "There is no firm evidence to support Mr. Smith's contention that he declared a disabling condition, requested accommodation and so was entitled to special treatment under the ADA."

Pacheco also stated in the letter given to the Daily Wildcat by Smith that he believed the decision not to renew Smith's appointment was "appropriate and lawful."

Smith also claims his discharge violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Arizona Civil Rights Act, because it was allegedly based on his sex and his race.

He said the UA treated similarly-situated females more favorably than himself. He also claims his discharge violated Arizona public policy prohibiting discrimination against handicaps, disabilities, race and sex.

Smith said that after he asked for DeArmond's assistance in 1992, DeArmond changed his method of supervising him from positive, constructive criticism to three instances in the next four years of intimidation, harassment and threatening to fire him.

However, during this time, Smith said DeArmond continued to write outstanding evaluations. Smith said that only five days before his resignation, DeArmond told Smith's colleagues on a retreat that Smith was one of the five best campus recreation directors in the nation.

Smith also said he believes he was "forced out" because he continually fought for student rights while demanding that the UA lives up to its obligations and promises.

Those obligations, Smith said, included a promise by the UA to fund $5 million of the construction of the Student Recreation Center and not to close any existing recreation facilities once the Rec Center was completed.

Smith said that DeArmond, in December 1995 and January 1996, called him into his office and berated him to the point of harassment. One alleged incident involved a reply memorandum written by Smith concerning department funding.

The second alleged incident concerned letters that Smith wrote to the editors of the Daily Wildcat,The Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen regarding a statement by Regent John Munger that all financial aid should be need-based and not minority- or disability-related. Smith said in his letters that he disagreed and suggested that under Munger's plan, athletic scholarships should be need-based as well.

In the claim, Smith also states he was subjected to intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress by the university, DeArmond and Taylor.

He did not give a specific date on his plans to file a lawsuit, but he said it should be within the next few months. Smith said he has stopped Brown's services since the claim was filed and is looking for legal counsel.

"Someone must ensure that the UA does not discriminate against persons with this disability any more than it does against persons with handicaps, or against race, gender or sexual orientation," he said.

DeArmond, in response to the allegations brought against him and the university, said, "For the appropriate protection of the university, I will not comment."

Betty Hupp, a senior staff assistant to Taylor, said Taylor could not comment on a personnel matter. The UA Attorney's Office could not be reached for comment.