LU softball coaches investigation and response from attorney for Bruder, Honkofsky
An explosive development in the recent firings of Lamar's head softball coach and her assistant.
The Texas State University System releasing photos of coach Holly Bruder and her players apparently drinking alcohol.
It appears to have contributed to Lamar's decision to fire Bruder but we still don't know for sure. The university has not said much. In fact, just Monday, LU President Kenneth Evans issued a statement saying the university does not comment on personnel matters, but he said the terminations of coach Bruder.and associate coach Allison Honkofsky were appropriate and legal.
We made an open records request asking for items associated with the investigation. That's when we received a photo and others that tonight have the coaches lawyers calling foul.
Photos of Lamar head coach Holly Bruder holding what appears to be a beer can. Another set of pictures apparently shows Lamar softball players with alcohol. The Texas State University System, which released the snapshots, blacked out the students' faces.
TSTU officials gave us this in response to our request for any items in connection with the investigation that led to Lamar firing Bruder and her wife and assistant Allison Honkofsky
"These pictures don't prove anything," said Cade Bernsen, the attorney who represents both women. "They're just random photographs, with no time, no date, no context."
Bernsen claims the university released the compromising pictures to hurt his clients in the middle of judicial proceedings which are ongoing.
Bernsen says the coaches took Lamar to court for the opportunity to defend themselves against unknown allegations.
"Please tell these coaches why they're fired, they said we don't have to, take us to court, so we took them to court," said Bernsen. "Then they show up and say we don't want to be here, we don't want to be here, and they lost. We got a restraining order against them."
The controversy surrounding Bruder stems from an incident in which one of Bruder's players, Paige Holmes, who is Catholic, claims she was forced to eat a sandwich with meat in it during Lent, against her religious beliefs.
At the time, Paige's father, Tim Holmes, told us he had filed a complaint with Lamar Police against Bruder, accusing her of offering alcohol to his daughter and other underaged players on the team.
"Nothing in these coaches personnel files is negative, there's not a reprimand, there's not a censure, or any type of demotion, nothing and especially not these photographs," said Bernsen.
In addition to the photos, TSTU released this exchange from a messenger application in which coach Bruder asks what are the requests, I'm buying. One of the responses from a blotted out name is Dos Equis. It's apparently from a student because university officials told us student identities would be redacted.
Coach Honkofsky, identified here as coach Allie, replies "not like that, like I'm buying sandwich stuff and beer."
Bernsen expresses skepticism.
"An employer, they fire employees for wrongful reasons, whether it's because they're a woman, whether they're gay, whether they're old, whatever, then they come back, they won't tell you why they fire them, and it gives them time to go out there and gather little bits of information here and there in order to put up some type of an excuse for why they fired them," said Bernsen.
Bernsen says there should be a cease-fire in the legal battle between the coaches and Lamar, because last week, a judge issued a temporary restraining order pending a hearing next month.
That's why Bernsen calls this an ambush.
"Lamar giving these items to the local media while a temporary restraining order is in place is a violation of that restraining order," said Bernsen. "We believe the release of the documents violates the Texas Open Records Act. We certainly believe the release violates Lamar's own official policy regarding grievances and appeals right now."
Bernsen considers Lamar's actions a slippery slope that could impact other university employees.
"That's the more reason these coaches have to defend themselves," said Bernsen.
Bernsen says he plans to seek sanctions against Lamar because he believes the release of the photos and texts are in violation of the court's order.
From attorney Cade Bernsen - The train is officially off the tracks. Today Lamar officials released random photos and text messages to the local news (without time, date, or context) in what clearly amounts to a childish attempt at ambush.
Coaches Bruder and Honkofsky asked for Athletic Director Marco Born to explain to them why they were being terminated. He refused. So, Bruder and Honkofsky filed appeals/grievances pursuant to Lamar’s official appeals/grievance procedure. This procedure allows for a private hearing process for employees to confront their accusers, present witnesses, and evidence.
Lamar refused to allow Bruder and Honkofsky access to Lamar’s appeals/grievance procedure. So the coaches filed, and won, a Temporary Restraining Order that is still in place.
President Evans (who has endorsed and approved all of AD Born’s actions) released a random statement yesterday (June 18, 2018) wherein he stated in part: “we do not comment on personnel matters” and “this longstanding policy safeguards the privacy of our employees, former employees, and students.”
Coach Bruder and Honkofsky’s personnel files that have been provided to them contain not one criticism, reprimand, disciplinary action, nothing, and certainly do not contain the
documents released today by Lamar. What you will find in their personnel files are glowing evaluations such as Coach Bruder’s evaluation in December of 2017:
Consistently Exceeds Expectations. Coach has done a tremendous job developing a program that competes year in and year out for conference championships. She has done a great job getting her team out and involved in the community to help make in [sic] impact in the area and it has also helped to create a loyal fan base that has helped with ticket sales. The coach and the staff have done a great job monitoring the academics of their student athletes and continue to see improvement in classroom of the team. Coach does a great job leading the program and is a valuable asset to the community, athletics department and the university.
What is clear is that administrators at Lamar have set their sights on these coaches. They have attempted to deny them due process under Lamar policy. Now, they have released random documents in violation of that same policy, Restraining Order, and the Texas Open Records Act. Meanwhile, the softball program withers, players leave, and the hard work and sacrifice of six years of building this program is squandered.