Former coach files lawsuit

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Former coach files lawsuit

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By Kimberly Wethal and Justin St. Peter

On May 13, 2014, then-University of Wisconsin-Whitewater wrestling coach Tim Fader’s children came home from school crying, all due to a letter that then-Chancellor Richard Telfer had distributed to the public, implying that their dad had done “something wrong.”

Fader, now employed as the head wrestling coach at the  University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is now suing Telfer and athletic director Amy Edmonds for wrongful termination and defamation. Paperwork was filed on July 27 of this year.

“Defendants (Telfer and Edmonds) engaged in the wrongful constructive termination of Fader’s employment without proper cause,” the lawsuit, written by Fader’s lawyer Stan Davis of the Davis Group, LLC of Madison, Wisconsin said.

UW-Whitewater spokesperson Sara Kuhl said the university does not directly comment on pending legal matters.

In the events leading up to what he now considers his wrongful termination, Fader had reported a sexual assault in April 2014 to the City of Whitewater Police Department after being contacted by the victim’s mother, instead of bringing the matter to UW-Whitewater officials first.

Almost a month later, the letter from Telfer was published. Fader was subsequently suspended from his post as wrestling coach and directed by Telfer to not come to campus.

Following an internal investigation, UW-W determined they would not renew his contract as head wrestling coach and on-campus lecturer.

Because of the nature of the official letter, however, any subsequent job interview Fader had, the potential employer would call UW-W. School officials then refused to elaborate on the incident, which led employers to feel uncomfortable hiring Fader because of their non-answers, according to the lawsuit.

“Defendants Telfer and Edmonds have engaged in common law defamation of Fader’s character pursuant to Wisconsin law by their comments to potential and current employers of Fader and by Telfer’s widely distributed e-mail/letter regarding Fader’s suspension and investigation,” Davis said in the lawsuit.

Neither Fader, nor his attorney, responded to Royal Purple requests for comment.

Before the reporting of the incident, Fader had met with school officials to discuss a raise to make him one of the higher-paid Division-III wrestling coaches in the nation. Fader had just led the program to the best finish in school history as the national runner-up in the Division-III NCAA tournament. He had also just won the Division-III Coach of the Year award.

Here is is how it all came tumbling down.

The Timeline

April 18, 2014: Fader receives a phone call from the mother of a former student, saying her daughter was sexually assaulted by an individual who was a UW-W wrestling recruit and had been visiting members of the wrestling team, according to the lawsuit. It is unknown if the apartment where the alleged sexual assault took place is considered to be on-campus or not. Fader knew the sexual assault victim both in the capacity of his work as the wrestling coach and personally, as the victim was a babysitter for his family. In response to a request from her mother, Fader reports the incident to the City of Whitewater Police Department. The victim of the alleged sexual assault is examined by nursing staff at Fort Atkinson Hospital.

April 18, 2014: The Whitewater Police report following the sexual assault deems Dequence Goodman as the suspect for the second-degree sexual assault charges that would later be dropped against him. Goodman denies wrongdoing, but agrees to be interviewed by police, of which Fader coordinates arrangements for his assistant coach, Chris Heilman, to drive Goodman to the Whitewater Police station. Goodman is neither detained nor charged. When Fader is informed of the police’s decision, the lawsuit states he assumed the situation was resolved and there was no additional action needed on his part.

May 12, 2014: According to the lawsuit, Fader is called into the office of UW-W interim athletic director Amy Edmonds where she allegedly said, “We could both lose our jobs over this.” Fader and Edmonds then meet with chancellor Richard Telfer about the incident. Fader is informed by Telfer that he violated the UW-W policy on reporting sexual assault to UW-W officials before reporting to law enforcement personnel. Fader told them he had never been informed of that policy. Telfer reprimands Fader, saying he would be suspended, and the UW-W wrestling program may cease to exist due to an anonymous email regarding the program of which both Telfer and Edmonds received. This email, despite numerous record requests, has not been recovered. Telfer told Fader to go home and watch a sexual assault training video that nobody had ever told him to watch before.

May 13, 2014: UW-W provided Fader with the official letter of suspension, according to the lawsuit. Fader was ordered by Telfer not to come to campus, speak to anyone associated with  campus, talk to the victim or her mother, talk to the media or anyone affiliated with the wrestling program.

May 14, 2014: Telfer released the following letter in the university announcements:

“Campus colleagues,

On Monday, I was notified that the Whitewater Police Department is investigating an incident involving an adult-aged recruit for the wrestling team. This matter is ongoing and I can only share limited information at this time.

Because of my concerns about the circumstances surrounding the incident, and the possibility that NCAA rules and university policies and procedures may have been violated, on Tuesday I placed head wrestling coach Tim Fader on paid administrative suspension. I have also suspended all wrestling recruitment activities effective immediately.

I have asked Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management Matt Aschenbrener and Center for Students with Disabilities Director Elizabeth Watson to conduct the internal investigation into the recruitment practices for wrestling.

I expect to conclude the internal investigation in a timely fashion. It is my intention to share further information with the campus community as I am able.”

May 30, 2014: The results of the investigation by Aschenbrener and Watson are published revealing minor secondary violations that the wrestling program committed, of which were obtained by the Royal Purple through an open records request. Fader and Heilman, dispute these accusations, and the NCAA never gives the UW-W wrestling program any penalty.

June 9, 2014: In another meeting, Telfer, with Edmonds present, asked Fader if he remembered reporting a sexual assault to Edmonds in January 2013, according to the lawsuit. Both Edmonds and Fader had remembered the incident, but it was revealed that Edmonds did not report it. Upon realizing that not recording an alleged sexual assault was breaking a federal law, Telfer quickly changed the subject.

June 10, 2014: According to the lawsuit, Fader met with Telfer who “applauded” him for “taking that young man to the police.” Telfer also said, “We think you are a great wrestling coach with … high values.” Despite this, Telfer still said that he wanted Fader’s resignation letter at the end of the week. Confused, Fader figures he is suspended, and then his contract renewal has been dropped because the sexual assault reporting policy to the university before law enforcement officials gives the university a chance to cover it up.

June 2014: Fader is relieved from his post following an investigation into a Title IX sexual assault complaint case, where he was found to have contacted the City of Whitewater Police Department, over the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Police Services Department

October 2014: Fader is hired as a part-time basis for Wheaton College for only $1,500. The lawsuit does not make it clear how long the pay period is.

November 6, 2014: In a letter, the Walworth County District Attorney’s office clears Fader of any wrongdoing in the alleged sexual assault case that took place six months prior.

January 21, 2015: The Walworth County District Attorney informs Officer William Becker, who was the responding officer the night the alleged sexual assault took place, that they would not be prosecuting the case against Goodman.

February 13, 2015: The City of Whitewater Police Department releases an official incident report on the sexual assault that occurred almost 10 months prior. The incident report clears Goodman of all charges and wrongdoing, due to the case not being provable beyond a reasonable doubt, the statute of limitations on charges having passed by the time the District Attorney made the decision and the alleged sexual assault taking place outside of Walworth County.

Sept. 2014 and January 2015: According to the lawsuit, an official from a Minnesota school attempted to contact Edmonds to get more background on the incident. Edmonds informs them that she wishes she could tell the full story, but could not, even though the rest of the story had been public for some time.

June 30, 2015: Telfer, chancellor emeritus for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, retires from his post.

July 1, 2015: Fader files a Notice of Claim form.

September 2015: Fader is considered for an open position for UW-Eau Claire’s as the head wrestling coach, according to the lawsuit. UW-W then gave Fader a positive review. Unlike his previous coaching/lecturing job where he made over $50,000 a year, Fader’s new position is not full-time and pays only $15,000 a year.

July 27, 2016: Fader, files a lawsuit against Edmonds and Telfer. In filing the lawsuit, he sought damages against the current and former faculty members for lost wages and benefits, damage to his reputation and loss of future wages.

Aftermath

In the process of this investigation, assistant coach Chris Heilman was pressured by university officials as well, according to the lawsuit.

Heilman was told he would be fired if he did not resign. Before making a rash decision, Heilman told the university he was going to hire a lawyer. Upon hearing this, UW-W officials changed their minds and offered him a $30,000 severance package if he resigned, along with a positive letter of recommendation.

After agreeing to the deal, Heilman is almost immediately hired by the United States Air Force Academy to an assistant wrestling coach position.

Edmonds removed the interim tag from her athletic director position, while Fader is UW-Eau Claire’s head wrestling coach, however, it is not a full-time position.

Fader recently appeared on the ESPN sports investigative journalism TV program, Outside the Lines, talking about the initial meeting between himself, Telfer, and Edmonds. 

“I hadn’t been trained, I didn’t know I had to report it to someone on campus first,” Fader said on the program.

UW-W now requires all coaches and staff to take a sexual assault awareness training.