By Kelly Sizemore
Let’s begin this story the same way we end it: The moral of this story is this: If you are a State Employee in Georgia, and if you harm another state employee while functioning in your role as an employee, you will be protected by Sovereign Immunity. Your protection shall be provided regardless if your actions are illegal, or if you intentionally misreport budget facts to your supervisor, or if you withhold budgetary information from someone who reports to you, or if you slander or commit libel against another in the national media or Internet, or if you retaliate against that person, or if you use your professional discretion to intentionally abuse another person….you shall be guaranteed Sovereign Immunity.
Given this accurate definition of the Sovereign Immunity laws in the State of Georgia, a finding of Sovereign Immunity for the USG is equal to a Name Clearing Finding for Dr. Anthony S. Tricoli.
What every person who works in this great country of ours wants to know is that the State in which they are employed will come to their defense if something goes-a-wry. If that is your dream, then don’t move to Georgia.
Only the Georgia Constitution can waive sovereign immunity for state agencies and their employees. However, since the USG reported they could not produce the employment contract for GPC’s former president, no waiver of sovereign immunity could be applied. However, when Dr. Tricoli himself produced that original employment contract signed by Rob Watts and himself; the USG began back peddling and said that agreement was a hiring contract and not an “employment contract” even though it included specific terms of employment. The USG said Dr. Tricoli never had a contract for employment even though they paid him to be the president of GPC for nearly six years. Unbelievably, the judge in this case sided with the USG.
You cannot be held personally liable for tortious acts against another as long as you commit those acts on the job. “The Georgia Tort Claims Act expressly exempts state officers and employees from personal liability so long as the allegedly tortious actions fall within the scope of their employment,” said Judge Daniel M. Coursey.
The University System reported this finding in the Final Audit Report it produced on 9/17/2012, “It is clear from our review that GPC’s CBO did not provide GPC’s President with timely and reliable financial information for the President’s use in managing the institution.”
Regardless if you do your job or you fail to do your job, or if you intentionally do a poor job you cannot be held personally liable in the State of Georgia if you are working as a state employee during the time in question; even if your poor intentions or criminal acts result in someone else losing their job. “Here, the tort claims against the individual defendants concern matters that arose ‘from the performance or non-performance of their official duties or functions.” “Therefore, the tort claims against the individual defendants are dismissed,” Judge Daniel M. Coursey. Had the claims been filed against the State of Georgia instead of individual defendants, we would like have seen a very different outcome.
In his Motion to Dismiss, not once did the judge indicate that Tricoli led the college into a budget deficit, or that he was not a good college president, or that he failed to do his job. In fact, on page two of his Motion to Dismiss, Judge Coursey recognized Dr. Tricoli’s outstanding work and success….“Anthony Tricoli was President of Georgia Perimeter College (GPC) from 2006-2012, during which he won numerous leadership awards and accolades.”
It is true, that the constitutional violations identified by Dr. Anthony Tricoli were also protected by the law in Georgia, as long as the constitution is violated in the line of duty. “Even where the plaintiff alleges a state constitutional violation, if the underlying conduct complained of it tortious and occurred within the scope of the state employee’s official duties, the employee is protected by official immunity under the GTCA,” said Judge Daniel M. Corsey.
The University System reported this finding in the Final Audit Report it produced on 9/17/2102, “GPC’s former fiscal leadership team relied on inaccurate, internally generated spreadsheets that did not correspond to the General Ledger. Specifically, it appears that members of GPC’s cabinet, to include the former President, and both the President’s Council and the Strategic Budget Committee were provided incomplete and inaccurate budget presentations made by the CBO and the Budget Director at various group meetings.” “We agree that he [CBO] was responsible for the institution’s fiscal operations in the overall context of his accountability to the former President.”
Regardless of how egregious the conduct of the Board of Regents or the USG or their employees were at the time they were harming Dr. Tricoli, because they were on the job at the time they committed these acts, they are protected by the law.
The University System reported this finding in the Final Audit Report it produced on 9/17/2102,”The internal reports produced by the Budget Director did not suggest that any significant budget issues existed.”
“The Board of Regents’ conduct falls within the exclusion set forth in Section 24. Defendants’ alleged misreporting of the colleges budget is covered by Subsection 24(11), which retains immunity for financial oversight activities. Defendants’ alleged defamatory statements are covered by Subsection 24(7), which retains immunity for libel and slander. Defendants’ purported retaliation against Tricoli for his attempts at good governance and their trickery in procuring his resignation are also covered by Subsection 24(7), which retains immunity for contractual rights. And the Board of Regents’ remaining actions concerning Tricoli’s departure as college president “were within the ambit of the Board’s discretion inherent to the exercise of it as administrative functions,” and thus covered by Subsection 24(2), which retains immunity for discretionary acts, “whether or not the discretion involved is abused.”
Finally, the University System reported this finding in the Final Audit Report it produced on 9/17/2102, “It is clear from our review that GPC’s CBO did not provide GPC’s President with timely and reliable financial information for the President’s use in managing the institution.”
So once again, the moral of this story is this: If you are a State Employee in Georgia, and if you harm another state employee while functioning in your role as an employee, you will be protected by Sovereign Immunity. Your protection shall be provided regardless if your actions are illegal, or if you intentionally misreported budget facts to your supervisor, or if you withhold budgetary information from someone who reports to you, or if you slander or commit libel against another in the national media or Internet, or if you retaliate against that person, or if you use your professional discretion to intentionally abuse another person….you shall be guaranteed Sovereign Immunity.
As a former USG employee for fifteen years in the Office of the President at Middle Georgia State College (formerly Macon State) and Georgia Whistleblower since 2009, the fact that Georgia allows sovereign immunity to confirmed and even admitted criminal practices by the Board of Regents of the USG has been common practice and the “norm” for many years. I have correspondence from Governor Nathan Deal and members of the Senate and House Higher Education Committees confirming their knowledge of the RICO (racketeering) practices – to which they did nothing. The fact that these criminal practices are not investigated, most sealed from public view and purposely misrepresented by the BOR’s attorney, Attorney General Sam Olens, is currently under review in Atlanta by a state government agency who are considering requesting a full GBI investigation – also, long overdue. I, along with others, will be submitting a complaint in 2015 with the Georgia State Bar re Attorney General Sam Olens, et al (i.e., Annette Cowart) in our continued efforts to protect the hundreds of USG faculty, staff, students and their families whose lives have been negatively impacted by the infamous Georgia Sovereign Immunity in our state’s higher education system. As a Veterans Widow, I fought the VA for eighteen years. If necessary, I will fight the BOR of the USG (commonly known throughout thirty-one campuses as the “Southern Mafia”) just as long. My late Husband did not give the ultimate sacrifice for the state government now in place. Someone has to make the BOR of the USG accountable as Governor Deal and Georgia’s General Assembly will not. See: http://gwmac.com/poitevint-deposition/
A finding of Sovereign Immunity does absolutely clear Anthony. But none of us needed the judge’s decsion to know that Anthony did nothing wrong. Only those who were out of touch, or who didn’t know Anthony could have though that he would have ever been involved in anything inappropriate. He is a highly ethical person, a person of strong convictions who unfortunately had people above him and below him who were untrustworthy.
I served for a while on the Strategic Planning Budget Committee; and at each of our meeting’s we were told by the budget staff that the college had plenty of money. We were told that our high enrollment numbers kept our budget in the black. Those presentations were made by the college EVP and the college Budget Manager. These are the same people who stood before the entire faculty and staff at each Convocation at the beginning of each year and told us that we were secure in our income and that our budget was strong. Dr. Tricoli heard these same presentations at the same time that we heard those messages. He was lied to at the same time we were led to.
This Sovereign Immunity finding only serves to provide further proof that the people that Dr. Tricoli said lied to him, did actually lie to him. The judge didn’t say those people were innocent regarding Dr. Tricoli’s claims, he said he was giving them immunity from prosecution for crimes and actions they took while serving in their capacity as employees of GPC and the USG. Why would he give them Sovereign Immunity of they weren’t guilty? They were guilty, and just like in the game of Monopoly, they got a card to get out of jail for free. Dr. Tricoli paid the price for crimes committed by others. He got screwed.