An AFRO Exclusive:
By Aya Elamroussi, Special to the AFRO
Tyrone Hankerson Jr., a Howard University law student allegedly involved in an embezzlement scandal currently clouding the prestigious HBCU, is accusing the institution of leaking his financial information and plans to file a suit for $10 million, his lawyer James L. Walker Jr. told the AFRO via e-mail April 5.
The complaint is set to be filed late April 6 or April 7.
Hankerson will sue on the grounds of three counts: breach of a duty and negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation, according to an advanced copy of the complaint obtained by the AFRO. The suit was filed against Howard University, Grant Grundy and Wayne A. I. Frederick, Howard University president.
The complaint identified Grundy as the whistleblower who posted an anonymous entry on the blogging site Medium, which alleged that $1 million of financial aid money had been misappropriated over a period of years. According to LinkedIn, Grundy worked as a special assistant to the associate director and university bursar from August 2015 until April 2017. Hankerson’s complaint alleges that Grundy accused him of pocketing about $429,000 while he worked at the financial aid office at Howard University.
On the charge of a “Breach of a Duty and Negligence” the complaint states that Howard University violated its Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) policy, which prohibits the release of personal and financial without students’ written consent.
“Defendant Howard and Defendant Grundy breached this duty by releasing and disclosing Mr. Hankerson’s financial aid records to an online newspaper Medium,” the complaint reads. “Medium reported and posted the alleged misappropriations story about Defendant Howard along with the financial records of Mr. Hankerson.”
The complaint also alleges that due to Grundy and Howard’s supposed failure to maintain Hankerson’s confidential financial information, he “suffered damages to which he seeks compensatory and punitive damages.”
On the point of “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress” the lawsuit alleges Howard University and Grundy “knew” that student protests and media attention would have “a negative and misleading effect on Mr. Hankerson’s reputation and emotional stability.”
When Hankerson’s financial records were supposedly disclosed, he was taking his final exams and preparing to graduate from Howard University School of Law. The complaint claims that disclosure of his financial records would influence his ability to pass or fail his classes.
On the last count of “Defamation,” the complaint claims Grundy “negligently and recklessly” made false statements on the Medium post about Hankerson, accusing him of stealing over $400,000 and naming him as one of the six employees fired from Howard. As a result, the suit further claims, Hankerson’s professional reputation has been severely damaged.
According to Walker, Hankerson lost a job that he was supposed to begin after his graduation this upcoming summer. His annual salary would have been $200,000, Walker said.
The $10 million in damages being claimed in the lawsuit would cover Hankerson’s lost earnings, attorney’s and court fees and also provide some relief for the public humiliation he has suffered, his lawyer said.
Walker told the AFRO that he has been trying to get in touch with Howard, but he hasn’t received a significant response besides an e-mail stating, “We’ll get back to you.”
He said, “That’s the most we got from Howard.”
Neither the institution nor Grundy responded to the AFRO’s request for a response to the allegations by AFRO press time.