UNA professor accused of sexual assault in lawsuit remained on $10k-a-month paid leave

There's another strange turn in the case of a former University of North Alabama professor accused by a student of sexual assault.

UNA Records show David Dickerson was paid more than $70,000 dollars after the alleged assault occurred.

The university is being sued by the woman who claims school officials covered up the alleged assault.

The lawsuit against UNA was filed three weeks ago. It alleges the university failed to act in November 2015, after a student informed school officials that business professor David Dickerson sexually assaulted her on a number of occasions during a university-sponsored trip to Orlando.

UNA responded to the lawsuit, saying the courts are open to those who file lawsuits "for the purpose of extorting money with baseless allegations."

A few days later the university sent out a second statement. It said that officials investigated the incident at the time and concluded Dickerson had "violated university policy concerning faculty/student relationships."

The school said Dickerson had been removed from the classroom and ordered to stay away from students. Then the statement noted, he is no longer employed by UNA.

What the school left out of that narrative, was first reported Tuesday by our news partners at AL.com. UNA's president Ken Kitts told AL.com that UNA had weighed firing Dickerson versus putting him on paid leave.

Kitts told AL.com the school was concerned that any employment action might have required a hearing where affected students would have to testify.

Kitts told AL.com that could have been, "intimidating or emotionally challenging for those students." So the school put Dickerson on paid leave.

Dickerson was apparently removed from the classroom, but UNA records show he remained on the payroll from the time of the alleged November incident until June of 2016, earning more than $10,000 a month.

Kitts provided WHNT with the following statement Thursday.

"On June 18, 2015, based on the recommendation of a Business School faculty search committee and the recommendation of the Dean of the Business School, and after completing a background check that revealed no problems, UNA hired David Dickerson as a Visiting Associate Professor of Marketing for the fall and spring semesters of the 2015-2016 academic year.

UNA learned of accusations against Dickerson in late November 2015 and immediately opened an investigation, with timing complicated by a 10-day Thanksgiving holiday and the semester final exam schedule. On December 8, Dickerson was ordered to have no further contact with the affected UNA students. On December 17, UNA’s investigation concluded that Dickerson had violated University policy. UNA notified him that his contract would not be renewed and placed him on administrative leave, and when school resumed after the holiday break, banned him from campus.

UNA carefully weighed the consequences associated with placing Dickerson on administrative leave as of Dec. 17 until the term of his contract expired the following May, versus early termination of his one-year contract. UNA was concerned that Dickerson would request a due process hearing, to which he would have been entitled, and to be paid his salary during the hearing process. A hearing might have necessitated testimony from the students affected by his conduct, which could have been intimidating or emotionally challenging for those students. It also would have risked exposing the identities of these students, thus implicating the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (FERPA).

Further, Dickerson likely would have vigorously defended against the accusations with the assistance of legal counsel, resulting in protracted delays extending beyond May 1, 2016, which would have presented many contractual ramifications and administrative complications. By instead placing Dickerson on administrative leave, UNA was able to get him off campus quickly and prohibit student contact. UNA lessened the chance of the identities of the students involved becoming public and avoided any emotional impact on them.

In summary, placing Dickerson on administrative leave until his contract term expired protected the best interests of the students involved as well as those of the entire UNA community by removing him from campus while avoiding protracted procedural appeals and potential litigation by Dickerson."