A former employee of the University of Louisville has filed a lawsuit against the university, claiming she faced retaliation for reporting an extortion attempt in the men’s basketball program.
As reported by local ABC affiliate WAVE, the lawsuit was filed by the attorney of former Louisville deputy general counsel and associate athletic director Amy Shoemaker, who is currently the General Counsel of Miami University in Ohio.
Shoemaker reported directly to both former athletic director Vince Tyra and to the university's general counsel, according to court documents.
According to WAVE, documents state Shoemaker’s assistance was requested by then-deputy athletic director Josh Heird to terminate two assistant coaches, including former assistant coach Dino Gaudio. Attorneys state Shoemaker requested another person be in the room with former Louisville men’s basketball head coach Chris Mack for conversations with the assistant coaches about their termination.
On March 17, 2021, Mack met with Gaudio without any other counsel present about the assistant coach’s termination. The conversation was recorded by Mack, where Gaudio threatened to report to the media allegations the men's basketball program violated NCAA recruiting rules.
In the recordings, Gaudio demanded a lump sum of a year and a half’s salary and an in-person meeting with Mack the following day to go over a written contract. Mack went to Heird and Shoemaker following the meeting, according to documents, who then scheduled another meeting where Shoemaker expressed “security concerns” with Gaudio’s emotional state.
Documents state Shoemaker also went to the chief of the University of Louisville Police Department on the night of March 17, providing him with a copy of Mack’s recording and the voicemail Gaudio left for Mack confirming he would return the following day.
Tyra also reported the extortion attempt to former university president Neeli Bendapudi that same night, according to documents reviewed by WAVE.
Bendapudi, in a video conference call on March 18, expressed “frustration and anger” that the U of L Chief of Police was contacted about the incident, documents state. In the documents, Bendapudi said she was concerned about the negative publicity the incident would cause. Shoemaker told Bendapudi she was the one who had contacted the chief about the extortion attempt.
On March 18, 2021, the police chief told Shoemaker that the FBI was coming to interview Mack — an interview Tyra and Bendapudi said they would also attend.
In the meeting, Mack said he had deleted a larger part of the conversation and only provided a smaller portion to Shoemaker and the FBI, fearing the longer recording “would reflect poorly on him” as he was trying to diffuse the situation.
The documents state Mack participated in the FBI's recovery of the recordings.
Following the reporting of the incident, Shoemaker said she noticed a shift in her role in matters she had previously overseen, according to court documents, including revocation from executive sessions, conversations with counsel and team meetings for the U of L board.
Shoemaker’s attorney also said she was frozen out of job responsibilities by the president’s office from the date of her reporting the extortion to November 2021, WAVE reported.
On November 29, 2021, Shoemaker’s future as a counsel role was discussed. Her attorney states Bendapudi and general counsel Angela Curry were believed to have been discussing relieving Shoemaker of her counsel role at U of L.
Shoemaker’s attorney states she was offered a reduction in responsibility and salary paid from the counsel’s office. Documents also said the employment action was not discussed with Tyra, according to WAVE.
Documents state Shoemaker was offered a position at Miami University, which she assumed Jan. 19, 2022, in light of her diminished status at the University of Louisville.
The attorney argues Shoemaker was protected under the Kentucky Whistleblower Act, and that the university’s retaliation acts were illegal. The lawsuit is seeking damages from the university for Shoemaker’s loss of employment and income.