J.F. Ingram State Technical College
Ingram State Technical College ("the college")
appeals from the decision of a hearing officer overturning
the decision of the acting president of the college to
reassign Stanley Carter's employment with the college.
This proceeding is governed by the Students First Act of 2011
("the SFA"), § 16-24C-16, Ala. Code 1975. The
decision of the hearing officer was appealed directly to this
court pursuant to § 16-24C-7(f), Ala. Code 1975. For the
reasons discussed herein, we reverse the decision of the
hearing officer and render a judgment in favor of the
and Procedural History
college is a part of the Alabama Department of Postsecondary
Education, but it operates within a correctional-facility
environment. Carter has been employed with the college for
approximately 25 years and had been employed as the dean of
instruction for the college for 1 year, earning $112, 000
annually. Pursuant to largely undisputed events discussed
below, the college reassigned Carter to the position of
center director. As a result of the reassignment, his annual
salary was reduced to $96, 803. Pursuant to subsections (e)
and (f) of § 16-24C-6, Ala. Code 1975, which governs the
demotion and/or termination of nonprobationary classified
employees of two-year educational institutions, Carter
appealed that decision.
January 19, 2016, a hearing was held on Carter's appeal
before Dr. James S. Klauber, who, for the limited purpose of
conducting a hearing in this matter, was acting as president
of the college ("the acting president"). The acting
president was appointed after Dr. Hank Dasinger, the actual
college president, recused himself from the proceedings due
to his involvement in the underlying investigation that led
to Carter's reassignment. Dr. Dasinger, Carter, and
LaTonya Porterfield, an employee of the college, testified at
February 1, 2016, the acting president entered a written
order, finding as follows:
"1. At the end of October and prior to October 27, 2015,
President Dasinger received a report from employee Malinda
Baynard that a male employee had taken pictures of a female
employee. President Dasinger inquired further as to who the
specific parties were and was informed it was Stanley Carter
and LaKerri Gill. He was advised that LaKerri Gill was very
upset about the incident.
"2. On October 27, 2015, President Dasinger met with
LaKerri Gill to discuss the reported allegations. Jon
Klarren, Dean of Administration, also attended these meetings
with the President and transcribed notes from this meeting.
"3. LaKerri Gill reported to President Dasinger that,
about a month prior, she was with Stanley Carter, Lucian
Ward, Alexis Owens, LaTonya Porterfield in a conference room.
Stanley Carter made a comment about her wearing a full dress
and he had made comments like that in the past. Stanley
Carter took three photos of her with his cell phone, one of
her legs, one of her middle, and one of her top. She felt
'like a whore' and 'nasty.' The incident was
reported to Malinda Baynard.
"4. LaKerri Gill reported to President Dasinger that she
was engaged in avoidance behaviors around Stanley Carter.
Stanley Carter denied that LaKerri Gill tried to avoid him.
"5. LaKerri Gill reported another picture-taking event
by Stanley Carter that occurred around October 23, 2015, and
she reported immediately walking out. There was no testimony
contradicting a second picture-taking event.
"6. LaKerri Gill reported to President Dasinger that she
had been cursed by Stanley Carter, 'I don't want to
hear that sh[i]t.' There was no contrary testimony to
"7. On October 27, 2015, President Dasinger met with
LaTonya Porterfield to discuss the reported allegations. Jon
Klarren, Dean of Administration, also attended with the
President and transcribed notes of this meeting.
"8. LaTonya Porterfield reported to President Dasinger
that she believed Stanley Carter had taken pictures of
LaKerri Gill and wondered why Stanley Carter would take a
picture of LaKerri Gill and didn't know what kind of
relationship Stanley Carter and LaKerri Gill had.
"9. On October 27, 2015, President Dasinger met with
Lucian Ward to discuss the reported allegations. Jon Klarren,
Dean of Administration, also attended with the President and
transcribed notes of this meeting.
"10. Lucian Ward reported to President Dasinger that
'several weeks ago' Stanley Carter joked about
LaKerri Gill's attire and took out his cell phone and
took three pictures of LaKerri Gill starting with her legs.
Lucian Ward reported the conduct to be strange but thought
Stanley Carter, as an administrator, would know better than
to do something inappropriate. LaKerri Gill approached him
and was upset afterwards and he cautioned her not to file a
"11. Based on the report and the three interviews
conducted, on October 30, 2015, President Dasinger drafted a
proposed suspension without pay and reassignment memorandum
to Stanley Carter and also drafted a notice of voluntary
resignation from Dean of Instruction to Center Director
position to discuss with Stanley Carter.
"12. The October 30, 2015, proposed memorandum noted
"a. Stanley Carter was proposed for suspension for 15
work days and the suspension was not subject to appeal; and
"b. Stanley Carter was proposed to be removed from his
position as Dean of Instruction and reassigned and
transferred to a Center Director position (without
supervisory responsibilities) and proposed to have his pay
decreased to the Center Director salary because Stanley
Carter 'on at least two occasions, used a cell phone to
take pictures of a female employee, to include photos of her
from head to toe. Further, you made comments to this employee
about her attire/appearance. Not only did your actions offend
and cause extreme discomfort to this employee, but it also
raised questions among employees who witnessed your behavior
about the nature of your relationship with the offended
employee. Regardless of your intention, these actions subject
to the College to claims of hostile work environment and/or
sexual harassment. Additionally, these actions are
inconsistent with the values of the College and are
completely unacceptable for a person in a leadership position
of the College.'
"13. President Dasinger stated that he presented Stanley
Carter with this draft October 30, 2015, memorandum and
allowed Stanley Carter to take it home, but Stanley Carter
testified that he did not receive this memorandum until
November 2, 2015, at a later meeting with the President.
"14. There is no dispute that President Dasinger met
with Stanley Carter face-to-face on October 30, 2015.
"15. There is no dispute that, on October 30, 2015,
President Dasinger orally notified Stanley Carter of the
employee report that Stanley Carter had engaged in
inappropriate picture-taking of a female employee, that the
female employee was upset, and that others had witnessed the
"16. President Dasinger testified that Stanley Carter
was offered an opportunity to provide argument or defense to
his actions, Stanley Carter originally denied taking pictures
but eventually admitted to 'simulating'
picture-taking. Stanley Carter further discussed his
friendship with LaKerri Gill and that, because she was often
sad, he told her she needed a man in her life and showed her
a male picture on his phone.
"17. President Dasinger testified that he believed
Stanley Carter had originally misspoken and/or was dishonest
about his role in the alleged picture-taking incident during
"18. Stanley Carter testified that he did not know who
the alleged victim of the alleged picture-taking was, while
the President stated that he expressly told Stanley Carter
that the incident involved pictures of LaKerri Gill on
October 30, 2015. Stanley Carter's testimony did not seem
credible in light of the conversation he admitted having with
the President about the incident and admitting he
"19. Stanley Carter was allowed to think about the
matter over the weekend and return on November 2, 2015,
around 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm to discuss the matter again with
"20. On November 2, 2015, Stanley Carter arrived and
announced that he intended to fight the President's
proposal. This was another face-to-face and scheduled meeting
with the President.
"21. There was undisputed evidence that Stanley Carter
never asked for a lawyer or asked for more time (other than
over the weekend, which he was given) to present evidence or
argument related to the 15-day suspension.
"22. The Students First Act (Alabama Code [1975, ]
§ 16-24C-6(i)) provides: 'An employee may be
suspended for cause with or without pay on the written
recommendation of the president of a two-year educational
institution alone .... The suspension of a ...
nonprobationary employee for no more than 20 work days
without pay is not a termination of employment that is
subject to review under this chapter. Adequate notice of the
reason or reasons for the proposed suspension and an
opportunity to present evidence and argument, either in
person or in writing, to the president of a two-year