Fired UT official denies conduct charges
Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 7:00 pm
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE (AP) — Tennessee officials say they fired Jenny Wright as director of the school’s office of student judicial affairs for refusing to cooperate with a university investigation into whether she had inappropriate relationships with student-athletes.
Wright’s lawyer said there were no inappropriate relationships to investigate.
“She categorically denies having any inappropriate contact with any students,” Robert Kurtz, the lawyer representing Wright, said Tuesday. “She didn’t do anything wrong.”
Wright was fired Monday after failing to appear at a meeting to discuss the allegations against her.
Wright, 32, submitted a letter of resignation on Thursday rather than participating in the investigation. Tennessee refused to accept her resignation because it wanted her to cooperate and respond to the allegations.
In a letter that appears in Wright’s personnel fire, obtained through a public records request, Tennessee provost and senior vice chancellor Susan Martin wrote Monday that she was firing Wright for “failure to comply with the directives of authorized university officials to cooperate with a university investigation.”
“This investigation involves a matter of serious concern, and the university expects her to respond to the allegations that have been presented against her,” Tennessee assistant general counsel Matthew Scoggins had written in a letter indicating the school wouldn’t accept her resignation.
Kurtz said Wright wanted to resign because she feared the investigation would be too much of a distraction. Kurtz also said Wright already had been considering whether to leave before the start of the investigation.
“She was very concerned the focus of this investigation would be on her, that it would be something of a witch hunt, I would say, to destroy her reputation rather than preserving or protecting the work she’s done,” Kurtz said. “She didn’t want to be the focus. She wanted the students and the work she’s done with the students to be the focus of her job. She didn’t think she could continue on in that capacity and do what she wanted to do and carry out the works she wanted to do while this investigation was going on.”
Although Wright has been fired, the university continues to investigate whether she had improper relationships with student-athletes. The university has retained Knoxville lawyer Beecher Bartlett to investigate the matter. Bartlett declined comment on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.
“The focus of the ongoing investigation is potential employee misconduct,” Scoggins said in a statement released by the university. “It is not an NCAA investigation, and we know of no NCAA-related issues at this time.”
Wright had worked in some form at Tennessee since 2001, starting out as a student intern and graduate assistant.
She had worked as the director of student judicial affairs since 2011. Wright had received 24 of a possible 25 points in her 2011 performance review, the most recent one in her personnel file.
Published in The Messenger 5.15.13