Panel: No harassment culture at UT medical branch

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Associated Press

Posted on May 4, 2014 at 1:32 PM

Updated Sunday, May 4 at 1:32 PM

GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A panel has concluded the behavior of two former high-ranking executives at a medical campus in southeast Texas did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.

The University of Texas Medical Branch had come under scrutiny after accusations were made by female employees against Dr. Garland Anderson — the former executive vice president, provost and dean of medicine — and William R. Elger, who is the former chief financial officer, The Galveston County Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/SkLR16 ) Saturday.

A woman accused Elger of improper comments and behavior, including suggesting over lunch that she unbutton her blouse in exchange for vacation time, as well as kissing her on the lips on two separate occasions. She also accused UTMB in Galveston of ignoring her complaints.

A female member of Anderson's executive team accused him of using his powerful position to stalk and attempt to coerce her into an inappropriate romantic relationship.

Both women settled their cases with medical branch for $200,000 each under confidential agreements.

Elger, who resigned Sept. 16, kept his $581,400 yearly salary and "applicable longevity pay" for a new position as special adviser to the president. Elger, 64, was to be special adviser to the president until Aug. 31 or until he was re-employed, according to the settlement agreement, but he left the campus Nov. 30.

Anderson resigned his $619,109 a year post in August 2011 and took what the medical branch characterized as a sabbatical. He returned as a special adviser to the president earning $525,000 a year.

The seven-member panel determined UTMB does not have a pervasive culture of sexual harassment. But it recommended the medical branch revise its policies to encourage employees to file such complaints within 30 days to prevent ongoing misconduct.

UTMB President Dr. David L. Callender said the medical branch was known for a friendly culture, and that came with downsides, including people forming close relationships and feeling comfortable speaking too casually or saying things inappropriate for the workplace.

"We need to take a look at the culture and be cautious we don't fall into a trap," Callender said.

Callender's decision to keep Anderson on as a special adviser after the settlement was reasonable, the panel concluded. But bestowing title of "Special Adviser to the President" denoted favoritism, according to the report.

The panel also looked at how the medical branch handled public information requests related to the cases. The medical branch fought requests by the newspaper for case documents.

"While the panel concluded that UTMB acted within the limits of privacy rules and public disclosure laws, there is room for refining our processes and how we communicate our actions," Callender said in a letter to students Friday.

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Information from: The Galveston County Daily News, http://www.galvnews.com

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