Louisiana Record

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Fired LSU band director's suit moved to federal court

By Nancy Crist | Jun 23, 2016

BATON ROUGE – The lawsuit filed last month against Louisiana State University (LSU) by its former marching band director, Roy King, is moving to federal court as the result of a notice filed by the school.

LSU has the legal right to this move because King makes claims under the Federal Civil Rights Statute in addition to claims of defamation and slander under Louisiana law. Although the 11th Amendment prohibits a federal court from hearing a lawsuit against a state, LSU, as a state entity, has waived its right to immunity. This allows the entire case to be heard in the U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge.

"I expect LSU will, as usual, file a series of motions attempting to have all or part of this lawsuit dismissed," Jill Craft, King's lead attorney, told the Louisiana Record. "It is their fairly routine litigation practice."

King is suing the board of supervisors of Louisiana State University and A&M College; F. King Alexander, president and chancellor; Damon Talley, director of bands; Todd Queen, dean of the LSU School of Music; and A.G. Monaco, human resources director.

LSU hired King in 1998 as assistant director of the Golden Band from Tigerland and as a professor in the LSU School of Music. He became director of the band in 2010 and was named Band Director of the Year 2013 by the Epsilon Chapter of Phi Beta Mu international bandmaster fraternity. The Golden Band has been recognized in media, including Huffington Post and ESPN, as one of the nation's top marching bands.

The lawsuit alleges that LSU fired King for questioning the legality of the school's use of donations in ways that were contrary to the wishes of donors. A $500,000 donation from a former Golden Girl and her husband was to be used exclusively for Golden Girls scholarships. When King was allegedly told by one of the defendants to revise the endowment letter to allow the funds to be used for the School of Music, he refused. This is one of several instances cited of improper usage of funds in the suit. 

"When (Mr. King) became band leader, he was then directly in the role of having to deal with these issues, although we understand they may have occurred previously," Craft said. 

Another example of defamation given in the lawsuit was a defendant's response when asked why King was the subject of an internal audit: "The last thing we need is a Penn State situation on our hands."

"We are confident in the case and at the end of the day, Mr. King's desire was this situation never to have occurred," Craft said. "He truly loves the kids, his job and LSU. This has been devastating to Mr. King, his family and, I believe, the Golden Band members, alumni and fans."

King's supporters have rallied to provide encouragement, creating the Facebook page, Tiger Band Fans for Roy, which has 2,645 members. The page links to a GoFundMe campaign on King's behalf, raising money to pay for his legal defense and other expenses. One donor and former student wrote, "I hope this helps in some way. What a betrayal to such an inspirational and supportive mentor to so many. So glad he was there during my years!" 

King has requested, and been granted, a trial by jury. The court will issue the trial date in August. The discovery phase, including depositions of witnesses and those involved, will likely take place this fall.

"(Mr. King) would love reinstatement to his position and we asked for that," Craft said. "However, in lieu of reinstatement, he seeks lost wages and damages to compensate him for his losses."

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