Lawyer for woman who accused ex-UA coach issues blistering respo - Tucson News Now


Lawyer for woman who accused ex-UA coach issues blistering response

(Source: Emily Gauci / Arizona Athletics) (Source: Emily Gauci / Arizona Athletics)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The lawyer for the woman who accused former University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez of sexual harassment and running a hostile workplace has issued a blistering response to statements from the former coach and the university.

Augustine B. Jimenez, the lawyer for Melissa Wilhelmsen, issued the following statement Friday, Jan. 5

"On behalf of my client, Melissa Wilhelmsen, I would like to briefly respond to the mischaracterizations and personal attacks made against her in the media regarding the abuse she endured by Rich Rodriguez.

"First and foremost, Melissa stands behind the truthfulness of each and every allegation contained in the Notice of Claim and not just the “single truth” of Rodriguez’s extramarital affair.

"Second, the “thorough investigation" initiated in October by the University of Arizona into Rodriguez’s misconduct is incomplete, as none of the investigators ever spoke with my client or viewed the evidence in her possession regarding the events that took place.

"Melissa’s “refusal” to participate in this investigation should be placed in the proper perspective: Melissa complained to the University about Rodriguez’s conduct long before the investigation and, in fact, requested a transfer; that request was denied on the basis that a transfer would upset Rodriguez.

"It bears emphasizing that the University did not conduct an investigation at that time. Ultimately and as a result, Melissa quit her job rather than continue to be subjected to further harassment.

"When the University decided to conduct an investigation months later, Melissa had already left her job and she was under no obligation to cooperate with an investigation performed by a private law firm retained by the University. The purpose of this investigation was not to protect Melissa from further harassment by Rodriguez; instead, it was conducted to protect the University from the anticipated harassment claims and, perhaps provide a basis to terminate Rodriguez with cause.

"Finally, the Notice of Claim was not a “threat” to sue; rather it is required by Arizona law before you can sue a governmental entity or one of its employees.

"Once served, the Notice of Claim became a public document where it was obtained and disseminated by various news media.

"Melissa did not wish to have any of this information made public, and she is only responding publicly now because those at fault continue to cause injury by making publicly disparaging and false comments. Melissa looks forward to having her day in court."

The university fired Rodriguez Tuesday, Jan. 2, a week after a notice of claim was filed with the state attorney general's office alleging he ran a hostile workplace.

According to the Associated Press, the claim was filed Dec. 28 by a former employee. A notice of claim is a legal document that signals a lawsuit will be filed.

In October, the University's Office of Institutional Equity retained outside counsel to investigate the allegations.

READ MORE: Daughter of former UA coach questions accuser's motivations I Wildcat fans shocked by firing of head football coach I Rodriguez departure talk of town on sports radio I Report: Les Miles, Arizona 'mutually interested' in each other I UA fires Rodriguez amid sexual harassment allegations.

That investigation, which concluded last week, did not find enough to fire Rodriguez, but the university said it became concerned with the "climate and direction" of the program.

"The University initiated a thorough outside investigation," Rodriguez said in a statement made on Twitter. "I full cooperated with the investigation, including voluntarily taking and passing a polygraph. The University determined that there was no truth to her accusations and found me innocent of any wrongdoing."

Tucson News Now received a copy of the notice of claim on Wednesday. You can read it HERE or at the bottom of this story.

The complaint was filed by Wilhelmsen, Rodriguez's former administrative assistant, and she is seeking a $7.5 million settlement.

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