HOUSTON—Texas Southern University is still rebuilding its image after years of financial scandals and administrative upheavals, but a sexual harassment complaint against a high-ranking police lieutenant could complicate those efforts.
“Someone is clearly not doing their job at TSU,” said Jason Gibson, an attorney representing the complainant in the case.
According to the 25-page document, Sergeant Tara Horne was subjected to verbal and sexual harassment by a male supervisor. On one occasion, the document claims Lieutenant Preston Fontenot asked her to “unzip her uniform shirt” so he could see more of her breasts.
Fontenot was fired over similar allegations in 2004. TSU rehired him several months later, after what university officials call a thorough investigation.
In June, Officer Lisa Rodriguez filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fontenot. The case is currently in mediation. The latest complaint is being reviewed by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
“And if we find there’s any merit to the complaint, we will respond in the appropriate fashion,” TSU Spokesperson Eva Pickens said.
Fontenot has been promoted by the university since returning to his job. An attorney who represents the lieutenant believes the complaints are the result of disgruntled employees who don’t like Fontenot’s management style.
"I’m saying that these are all lies and did not happen,” said Adam Brown. “This was done because they were upset with the policies of Lieutenant Fontenot and his superiors, pure and simple, end of story.”
But it’s clearly not the end of the legal troubles facing Fontenot and the university.
“You can be tough and no-nonsense without violating university policies and without abusing your position of power,” said Gibson.