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Published: Tuesday, 9/24/2013

Fired UT faculty union chief files counterclaim

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The former head of the faculty union at the University of Toledo filed a lengthy counterclaim Tuesday accusing her former employer of Internet hacking, identity theft, sexual harassment, and other misdeeds.

Mary Jane Erard was fired in April by the UT Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, where she had worked for nearly 20 years. The union concurrently filed a lawsuit in Lucas County Common Pleas Court accusing her of having stolen more than $50,000 through unauthorized credit-card charges; unauthorized vacation, sick, and overtime pay, and unauthorized electronic transfers of union funds to an E-Trade account.

Ms. Erard denies the accusations and, in the counterclaim, alleges Donald Wedding, a member of the UT-AAUP executive board, and Kimberly Nigem, treasurer of the UT-AAUP, hacked into her personal email, Facebook, and E-Trade accounts, and in some cases, changed the passwords and took control of the accounts.

The former executive director also alleges Mr. Wedding and Michael Kistner, who also is a member of the UT-AAUP’s executive board, sexually harassed her, and when she complained about their behavior to other board members and officers, they did nothing about it.

She claims Mr. Wedding, Ms. Nigem, and others conspired to terminate her employment by making numerous false representations about various financial transactions, even though all had been authorized, noted in yearly audits, and approved by the board.

Ms. Erard said the union repeated those false claims to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, the Ohio Unemployment Review Commission, and the Lucas County Prosecutor’s Office. No criminal charges have been brought against Ms. Erard for the alleged theft, and the Unemployment Review Commission, after holding a hearing, determined in August that she was “discharged without just cause in connection to work,” the suit states.

“I don’t know how they can go forward when they can’t even win at the unemployment level,” Alan Kirshner, attorney for Ms. Erard, said Tuesday.

Attorneys for the UT-AAUP could not be reached for comment.

In addition to causing health problems, the defamation has hurt Ms. Erard’s work as a pastel landscape artist, the suit alleges, “causing art galleries to end exhibits of her work, to cancel scheduled exhibits, and to cancel art classes that she was scheduled to teach.”

Ms. Erard is asking the court to dismiss the faculty union’s lawsuit against her and is seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages on each of 17 claims, $11,908 for unpaid compensation, and attorney fees.

The case has been assigned to Judge Ruth Ann Franks.



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