A former deputy athletics director is suing San Jose State University officials, claiming his refusal to discipline a whistleblower led to his termination last year.
As reported by USA Today, Steve O’Brien is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 in his lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Tuesday, exactly one year removed from his termination date. Defendants include the school’s trustees and O’Brien’s former boss, SJSU athletic director Marie Tuite.
According to The Mercury News of San Jose, the suit alleges school officials engaged in a pattern of covering up misconduct by staff and students and retaliating against those who reported it. In O'Brien's case, he refused to discipline swim coach Sage Hopkins, who became a whistleblower in a decade-old sexual abuse case involving 17 female swimmers and Scott Shaw, the San Jose State director of sports medicine who resigned in August. O’Brien alleges that Tuite instructed him to reprimand Hopkins for dubious reasons when the coach resurfaced the abuse allegations against Shaw, according to USA Today, which first reported the allegations in April.
USA Today reported Friday that an investigation supervised by the California State University System found Shaw responsible for at least five of the women's claims.
O'Brien's 30-page complaint also says Tuite ordered him to discipline then compliance director David Rasmussen, who had investigated two prominent athletes for violating NCAA rules on gambling and drug use.
“O’Brien was punished for doing the right thing,” Tamarah Prevost, an attorney for O’Brien, said in a statement to the Bay Area News Group, parent company of The Mercury News. “He stood up for those trying to protect mistreated female student-athletes and it cost him his job. The days of covering up misconduct by universities should be a relic of the past, not the current standard.”
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division also is investigating San Jose State’s handling of the sexual abuse allegations, USA Today has reported.