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A former tenured Wayne State University professor on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit against the university and President M. Roy Wilson, alleging university officials denied him due process before firing him last year.

Leon Carlock — who began at WSU in 1987 as an assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics at WSU’s School of Medicine and earned tenure in 1995 — alleges that the university did not provide him a hearing or due process and violated its own rules before officials fired him without cause in December 2018.

"Defendants’ publicly known unlawful actions have stigmatized Plaintiff, leading to loss of his reputation, good name, honor and integrity," said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court.

The suit asks the court to declare the university's actions unconstitutional and a breach of contract, and to reverse his termination. It also asks it to award Carlock unspecified compensation.

Matt Lockwood, a Wayne State spokesman, said Carlock's is an unusual case. 

"Leon Carlock is unique in that he is the only Wayne State University professor to have gone through de-tenuring twice," Lockwood said. "In July 2016, he was charged with failure to perform academic assignments competently. Following a full hearing, a faculty panel sustained the allegations. Meanwhile, he was accused of having engaged in conduct that gave rise to a charge of job-related moral turpitude."

Lockwood added WSU has been trying in recent months but has been unsuccessful in trying to engage with Carlock's attorney and schedule a hearing on the charge of moral turpitude.

Regardless, Lockwood said, "we are confident of our position and we will defend it zealously."

Carlock was among several faculty members who WSU tried to fire in 2017. At the time, Wilson portrayed them as abusing their tenure by doing as little work as possible.

In Carlock's lawsuit, it said Jack Sobel, dean of the medical school, wrote to Wilson initiating dismissal proceedings against Carlock, according to the suit. 

Wilson terminated Carlock two days later.

"Plaintiff was given no prior notice that defendant Wilson was considering the specific sanctions levied against him," according to the lawsuit. "Defendant Wilson failed to provide plaintiff an opportunity to respond, in person or in writing, to the allegations in the letter prior to terminating him."

The suit also said that Wilson did not give Carlock notice of the university policy that he allegedly violated that led to his dismissal nor Wilson did give Carlock an opportunity for a hearing or process before he was terminated.

"Defendant Wilson failed and refused to provide plaintiff the process and protections afforded plaintiff by the Constitution and the (Wayne State University Code Annotated) before terminating him," says the suit, referring to the university's policies that outline tenure protection and grounds for dismissal.

"Defendants’ unlawful actions have caused plaintiff to be terminated from his employment, denied him tenure protections and denied him the protections of the WSUCA."

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

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