The University of Guam has responded to concerns aired by Speaker Tina Muna Barnes regarding the settlement of the lawsuit filed by UOG faculty member Ronald McNinch against the university.
The Speaker had expressed concern that the university may have broken the law by failing to make its settlement with McNinch public.
In a letter to the Speaker, UOG President Thomas Krise said the Guam Government Claims Act does not apply to McNinch’s lawsuit for the simple reason that his suit did not result from a government claim.
“In fact, Plaintiff McNinch never made a government claim pursuant to the Claims Act. Thus, Section 6102 of the Claims Act is inapplicable. The suit was not brought as a negligence or contract claim but instead as a Title VII federal civil rights suit, alleging workplace retaliation under federal law. The suit arose based not on a government claim but rather based on Dr. McNinch’s complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ultimately found no basis for Dr. McNinch’s claims, but nevertheless provided him with ‘right to sue’ letters, as it does in most cases,” Krise wrote.
In addition, Krise said Section 6206 of the Claims Act is inapplicable in the McNinch case for the same reason and also does not apply because McNinch’s grievance was not settled “before action” as specified in that section. Krise said the case was instead settled during a judicial settlement conference, after many months of litigation in federal court.
“Both Dr. McNinch and his lawyer expressly agreed in writing that the settlement terms should remain confidential and under seal. It is therefore difficult to understand how Dr. McNinch can now plausibly maintain that the settlement needs to be unsealed and made public,” Krise said.
To be clear, Krise said the university firmly denied and continues to deny all of McNinch’s alleged claims. However, in an effort to seek closure to this matter and to avoid spending additional time and many thousands of additional dollars defending against McNinch’s lawsuit, Krise said the university elected to reach an amicable settlement with McNinch.
“As you know, the vast majority of civil lawsuits are ultimately settled in such confidential negotiations even where, as here, liability is emphatically disputed,” Krise concluded.