Former Baylor employee asks court to order release of Pepper Hamilton report

ByPaula Lavigne and Mark Schlabach ESPN logo
Friday, July 29, 2016

A Baylor athletic department employee who was fired in wake of the sexual assault scandal at the university has asked a Texas court to order the Baylor board of regents to produce the Pepper Hamilton report.

Thomas Hill, a former assistant athletic director for community relations and special projects, was fired in late May after 28 years at Baylor. According to his attorney, Rogge Dunn of Dallas, Hill was never given an explanation for his firing.

"Baylor summarily fired Mr. Hill without explanation or warning," a release from Hill's attorneys says. "In a rush to judgment, Baylor's Board of Regents made the decision to fire Mr. Hill without ever talking to him or getting his side of the story."

Dunn said he filed a Rule 202 Petition that asks a Dallas County court to order the board of regents to turn over materials related to Hill's firing, including the Pepper Hamilton report, and to allow him to interview various regents.

"I think what's really important about the filing is we're going to be seeking depositions and evidence from the board of regents, including work from Pepper Hamilton," Dunn told ESPN. "It's a way to get to the evidence quickly, rather than from the other cases that are moving slowly."

In late May, after the board of regents received a presentation from law firm Pepper Hamilton, which the board had hired to review Baylor's sexual assault reporting procedures, it announced the demotion of president Ken Starr to chancellor, the suspension with intent to terminate of football coach Art Briles and probation for athletic director Ian McCaw. Within weeks, McCaw would resign, Briles would be fired, and Starr would step down from all leadership positions at Baylor but stay on as a law professor.

The school also fired Hill and assistant athletic director for football operations Colin Shillinglaw, who was named in one police report as the person police should contact if they needed anything from the football program. Hill's name never surfaced in any reports reviewed by Outside the Lines, and it remains unclear what role he played in the sexual assault investigation.

"While not to the same degree as the courageous women who were victimized in this dark time in Baylor's history, Hill is yet another -- and unnecessary -- victim of this controversy," the petition states.

The petition states that Hill wants to investigate why he was fired and that he does not yet anticipate a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Allowing this type of demand for interviews and documents prior to the filing of a lawsuit is a procedure somewhat unique to Texas, Dunn said. It has to be filed in the county of residence for the subjects of the deposition interviews -- in this case board of regents chairman Ron Murff and board members Mark Lovvorn and David Harper.

Baylor officials did not immediately respond to requests to comment on Hill's petition.

Members of the board of regents have declined to discuss specific personnel decisions and have remained largely silent the past two months. The university is facing three civil lawsuits filed on behalf of eight women who said Baylor did not respond appropriately to their claims of sexual assault under federal Title IX laws.

Baylor officials, including interim president David Garland, have insisted that Baylor does not have a written copy of a report from Pepper Hamilton. In May, the school released a summary of the law firm's findings, which stated that the firm reviewed emails, mobile device data and documents from former and current Baylor employees. The summary said attorneys interviewed more than 65 people. Hill's petition includes a demand for those materials.

The summary detailed how Baylor -- and specifically members of the football program -- failed to respond to reports of sexual assaults, but it did not include any details of specific incidents or names of victims, athletes, coaches or staff.

In one passage, it states that, "In certain instances ... athletics and football personnel affirmatively chose not to report sexual violence and dating violence to an appropriate administrator outside of athletics. In those instances, football coaches or staff met directly with a complainant and/or a parent of a complainant and did not report the misconduct. As a result, no action was taken to support complainants, fairly and impartially evaluate the conduct under Title IX, address identified cultural concerns within the football program, or protect campus safety once aware of a potential pattern of sexual violence by multiple football players."