The former financial aid director at Tennessee Tech has filed a lawsuit against the university for mismanaging funds.
Lester McKenzie filed the lawsuit after reporting nearly $1.7 million in Title IV financial aid was given to unqualified students at the university during the 2017-2018 academic year.
Associate Vice President of Human Resources Dr. Leslie Crickenberger and Vice President of Enrollment Dr. Brandon Johnson are listed as defendants in the case.
Court documents indicate McKenzie was first made aware of the misuse of funds between late 2017 and early-mid 2018.
According to the initial complaint, McKenzie disclosed and reported the violations to multiple TTU administrators. The lawsuit states Director of Admissions Judy Riggsbee was informed in 2017 and members of President Dr. Phil Oldham’s cabinet in early-mid 2018.
The lawsuit states McKenzie was told by Riggsbee that the changes were necessary for students to receive financial aid. However, McKenzie states Title IV aid was awarded to students through ineligible programs such as pre-professional and nursing.
McKenzie had also filed a Title IX complaint and later a retaliatory complaint against the university after reporting a candidate was turned down because they were “a single-mother.” The lawsuit states McKenzie was intimidated by university administrators following the Title IV and Title IX complaints prior to his termination in May 2018.
The lawsuit indicates McKenzie had no previous troubles nor discipline from the university prior to being terminated.
Since his termination, McKenzie filed a whistleblower complaint through the Department of Education prior to pursuing the lawsuit in May 2019. McKenzie requests reinstatement at TTU through a similar job position at equal or higher pay and benefits plus damages accrued since his termination.
The case has since been referred to the Magistrate Judge for customized case management. Both McKenzie and the defendants are requested to prepare potential resolutions including two independent attempts at resolving the case with approval from the judge.