University vows to fight wrongful termination suit

A former fraternity house director is suing Washington and Lee for $1 million

Bri Hatch and Shauna Muckle

Former Phi Gamma Delta house director Kelly Harris is suing the university for influencing her dismissal in 2021 after she filed reports detailing students’ violations of campus COVID-19 policies, ABC13 reported on Feb. 1. Washington and Lee will fight that lawsuit, a university spokesperson revealed.
Harris’ lawyer, Thomas Strelka, leaked a January 2021 email from Dean David Leonard to an unknown recipient to ABC13, who published some contents of the email.
Strelka did not respond to multiple requests for comment in time for publication.
Leonard wrote in the leaked email that he suspects Harris complained to a local newspaper about the university’s pandemic policies. He also alleged that Harris submitted a complaint to the Lexington police chief over a change in allowed hours for social gatherings during the pandemic.
“Kelly has lost the respect of the majority of those of us working for the University,” Leonard said. “Her attitude is holier than thou, and often condescending, her judgment is increasingly unprofessional and she continues to alienate others. We are frankly finding her to be more of a liability than an asset…No more kid gloves when dealing with her.”
Leonard, along with Director of Residence Life Chris Reid, declined to comment on the matter. They directed requests for comment to the university’s chief spokesperson.
Executive Director of Communications Drewry Sackett said she is not aware of any university policy regarding unprofessional communications.
“The WSET news report grossly mischaracterized the lawsuit and the facts,” Sackett said in an emailed statement to the Phi. “The plaintiff’s attorney is attempting to try this case in the press and has misrepresented the lawsuit, the facts and the court’s orders. W&L is vigorously defending the lawsuit.”
Sackett also said Harris was employed by Phi Gamma Delta, not the university.
ABC13 reported that this January, a judge ruled that this case will go to a jury. Pre-trial is set for June. Harris is seeking $1 million for lost wages, benefits and legal fees, according to ABC13.