A federal judge could decide as early as next month whether to grant an injunction that would force the University of the Cumberlands to pay its former president Dr. James Taylor nearly $400,000 in annual salary and benefits until a lawsuit Taylor filed against the university is settled.
U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove has scheduled an Aug. 11 hearing in Frankfort to hear oral arguments on Taylor’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
“A loss or threatened loss of retirement benefits constitutes the type of irreparable harm which justifies issuance of an injunction,” Taylor’s attorney, D. Duane Cook argued in a memorandum in support of the preliminary injunction. “The public certainly has an interest in the enforcement of written contracts according to their terms, and has an interest in elderly citizens receiving benefits they have been promised after years of faithful service.”
On June 13, Taylor and his wife, Dinah Taylor, filed a federal lawsuit against the university arguing that it reneged or threatened to renege on a deal to pay the couple during their retirement.
“The use of economic coercion against an elderly couple, including threats of the loss of their residence and health insurance, as well as their income, in an effort to accomplish a breach of a longstanding and enforceable contract is an affront to decent society, and is outrageous in light of the relationship between Dr. and Mrs. Taylor and the university, which employed them for so many years,” Cook argued in the lawsuit.
Dr. Taylor, 70, served as president of the university from Aug. 1, 1980, until his retirement on Oct. 15, 2015. During that time, Dinah Taylor, 69, worked as an “ambassador” for the university.
Cook argued in the lawsuit that the matter of Taylor’s retirement compensation dated back a decision by the board of trustees in 2005.
In 2005, it was felt that Taylor’s compensation was significantly lower than the presidents of other similarly situated colleges, the lawsuit alleged.
On Oct. 21, 2005, the board of trustees voted unanimously in closed session to continue Dr. Taylor and Dinah Taylor’s salary and benefits after his retirement as president, and to appoint him as chancellor of the university immediately thereafter, according to the lawsuit.
On April 19, 2012, the board of trustees carried out a contract to that effect, which was referred to as the “Taylor Agreement,” which was unanimously approved by the board of trustees on that date, according to the lawsuit.
The “Taylor Agreement” set out the retirement benefits the university agreed to provide Dr. and Mrs. Taylor, including payment of their health insurance benefits, continuing to pay Taylor’s salary as of the date of his retirement as president, and a provision that Dinah Taylor would receive her husband’s salary if he died first, the lawsuit stated.
For its part, the university released a statement last month claiming that the “agreement” was not disclosed to the board of trustees until more than eight months after Dr. Taylor ceased to serve as the university’s chief executive officer.
It also casts doubt on the legitimacy of the document.
“After looking into the circumstances surrounding that document, the university is strongly of the opinion that the document was never shown to the Board of Trustees before it was signed, nor properly approved by the Board,” the university said in a prepared statement.
The university’s statement indicated that the school had been working with Dr. Taylor for nearly a year to try and reach an agreement about his continuing role after he chose to resign as president of the school.
The university offered Dr. Taylor a compensation package valued at over $150,000 a year for part-time employment, but Taylor refused to budge or negotiate, according to the university’s statement.
In a memorandum in support of the motion for a preliminary injunction, Cook argued that rather than distance itself from a man they accuse of acting in bad faith, the university saw fit to offer Taylor a new contract for one year with no guarantee of any future contract, and which reduced his salary by half and put Dr. Taylor back on active employment with the university.