College case going to mediation

Mount Aloysius College and two former employees, who contend in a federal lawsuit they were improperly discharged in 2012, have informed a U.S. district judge in Johnstown they will participate in mediation in an attempt to resolve the case.

Larry Brugh, a former assistant dean of student affairs, and his wife, Suzanne, who was a clock operator for the basketball teams, filed the lawsuit in April contending they claim they lost their jobs due to retaliation by the administration for their opposition to a 1992 decision not to hire an African-American coach for the men’s basketball team.

Their opposition, according to the lawsuit, continued to be a sore subject for present Mount Aloysius President Tom Foley.

That led to Larry Brugh’s demotion in 2012 and finally dismissal of Brugh and his wife from the college after the Brughs had their Pittsburgh attorneys, James W. Carroll and Noah R. Jordan, write a letter of protest concerning Larry Brugh’s treatment by the administration.

The college responded that the Brughs’ opposition to the decision not to hire Lynn Ramage, now a teacher in Arizona, as the basketball coach in 1992 was too far removed in time to have been a factor in the couple’s dismissal.

Mount Aloysius — through its Pittsburgh attorneys, Teri Imbarlina Patak and Steven W. Zoffer — have asked the lawsuit be dismissed.

The federal court has a program called Alternative Dispute Resolution as a way of encouraging parties in lawsuits to seek out-of-court settlements.

After a “planning meeting” recently, U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson was told in a report that both sides have agreed to enter into mediation on Nov. 20.

The two sides have selected Kenneth Benson, a former assistant district attorney in Allegheny County and former Pennsylvania deputy attorney general, to attempt to resolve the issues.

The decision to try mediation, however, does not put the lawsuit on hold.

Gibson has scheduled a case management conference, a procedure that will establish time deadlines for discovery and future filings related to the case.

The lawsuit revolves around attempts by Mount Aloysius in 1992 to hire a basketball coach for the men’s team.

Brugh was on the selection committee and the committee, according to the lawsuit, was unanimous in its choice to hire Ramage, but the recommendation was vetoed by the administration, allegedly because Ramage had a Caucasian wife.

That led to protest from Larry Brugh and the leader of the search committee, Joseph DeAntonio of Altoona, the successful women’s basketball coach and athletic director.

In subsequent lawsuits filed by Ramage and DeAntonio, Brugh agreed to be a witness, according to his lawsuit.

Those lawsuits were settled out of court in the late 1990s.

Larry Brugh contends that while he was retained by the college, his opposition has resurfaced in recent years and led to retaliation by the college.

The college, in its answer to the lawsuit, indicated that while the Brughs “arguably engaged in protected activity in the 1990s and suffered adverse actions in 2012, they have not and cannot allege facts to plausibly suggest a casual connection between the protected activity and adverse action, and, thus, the claim fails.”