Baylor President's Firing Unrelated to UNR Firing

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GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) - A day after firing Baylor University's president, the board chairman said Friday that the decision had nothing to do with a Nevada attorney general investigation into alleged wrongdoing at his previous job.

John M. Lilley, who was president of the University of Nevada, Reno, from 2002-05 before coming to Baylor, also was named in some of the 70 or so civil lawsuits filed against the school the past six years. But Baylor regents only heard a bit about some disgruntled Reno professors, said board chairman Howard K. Batson.

"We heard about some waves before we hired him," Batson told The Associated Press on Friday, adding that regents thought it was no cause for alarm because a little campus disharmony is typical. "I was not aware of that (AG's investigation). I'm quite surprised that those who might have wanted him to go would not have made us aware of that. It had no factor whatsoever in our decision."

Baylor regents fired Lilley on Thursday during their meeting in Grapevine near Dallas, saying he had failed to unite students, faculty and alumni at the world's largest Baptist university. Batson declined to comment further Friday after the regents' meeting ended.

In May, the Baylor faculty senate passed a resolution critical of Lilley, focusing mainly on concerns that professors did not have input on tenure decisions. Some students said Lilley seemed disconnected and was rarely seen on the campus in Waco, about 100 miles south of Dallas.

In 2005, the University of Nevada, Reno's faculty senate issued a report that described the climate on campus under Lilley as "one of fear, intimidation and retaliation."

Some former professors and a campus police sergeant who have taken their complaints to the Nevada attorney general accuse Lilley
and some current UNR staffers of retaliating against whistle-blowers, illegal hirings, fraud and embezzlement.

"He ignores the faculty senate, the students, everyone, and he establishes an administration that's corrupt," said Hussein S. Hussein, an internationally known animal nutrition researcher who sued after he was fired as an animal science professor at UNR earlier this year. "I'm not surprised he was fired at Baylor, but he did more here."

Lilley referred calls to UNR's assistant general counsel, Chuck Hilsabeck, who said the probe was prompted by false claims and
"guerrilla tactics" by disgruntled former employees. He said he has cooperated by providing documents, declining to elaborate.

"I'm aware of no criminal activity and I'm certain there has been none," Hilsabeck said. "I'm confident the university will be vindicated when the AG is finished."

Hussein said that Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has been investigating the university since he and others met with her in April and gave her thousands of pages of documents.

The Nevada Attorney General's Office did not return calls seeking comment.

Hilsabeck also said the lawsuits' claims were baseless and that UNR had already prevailed in many of them.

"There are a small number of people who are filing a large number of lawsuits by one attorney," Hilsabeck said.

Last month a federal judge dismissed two lawsuits Hussein had filed accusing UNR of firing him in retaliation for blowing the whistle on alleged abuse of research animals. Hussein is appealing and has other suits pending.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)