Michelle Ferrier, dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University, filed a lawsuit against a former subordinate for nonpayment of a personal loan, court records show.
A pre-trial conference has been set for March 10 in Ferrier’s case against Patrice Campbell Monroe, a former administrative assistant in the school’s Knight Chair division, according to documents filed January 24.
Monroe said she recently resigned from her position to accept a teaching position in Gadsden County.
Tensions between Ferrier and Monroe have generated conversations within the school, including reports that Monroe was seen in tears following meetings with Ferrier over the personal issue, according to university sources.
Ferrier reportedly reassigned Monroe to another office space within the school last fall, when details of the personal issue were first reported on Rattler Nation, a blog covering FAMU.
When reached for comment on Monday, Ferrier said, “It’s a personal matter and I don’t think it’s newsworthy.” Ferrier is demanding full reimbursement of the $2,500 she claims is owed to Monroe, according to court records.
In her complaint, Ferrier says she gave Monroe $1,000 last July and another $2,000 in August as a “personal loan.” At that time, Monroe “agreed orally” to pay $500 per month in payments to the dean until December 31, 2019.
“As of October 14, the plaintiff has not received any payment for the loan,” the document states. Ferrier says she then wrote Monroe, and Monroe signed a promissory note.
Ferrier’s letter, dated October 14, came from the dean’s FAMU letterhead. In it, she tells Monroe that she loaned him $3,000 “for pay” before her wedding.
“I expected a refund since then on your earnings,” she wrote. “To date, I have not received the returned funds.”
Ferrier goes on to say that “there is a hefty penalty for not submitting payment in full by the time we discussed it, at the end of the year.”
Ferrier said that “on January 1, 2020, 50% interest will be charged for any remaining balance, with an additional 25% accrued monthly for the remaining balance(s), on February 1, March 1 and until this moment. balance is restored.
Ferrier and Monroe both signed the deal on Oct. 14.
In the lawsuit, Ferrier says Monroe paid $500 on Nov. 6, but hasn’t received any payment since.
She also accused Monroe of leaking the letter to the media, “resulting in reputational damage and mental distress.”
Ferrier also says in her lawsuit that Monroe filed an internal grievance against her with the university, “creating further mental distress.”
FAMU does not comment on legal matters involving personnel matters.
But Monroe paints a different picture of what happened: “This whole ordeal is just very embarrassing,” she said. “I wasn’t sending documentation to the provost to be malicious to the dean.”
Monroe said she had worked at the school for 4½ years in the Knight Chair program in a non-benefits position.
Her contract ended on June 30, 2019, and she was a candidate for full-time status in the position. As this administrative process began, she remained in school, but was not paid.
She said she reached out to Genene Boston, vice provost for faculty affairs and academic initiatives, with her concerns.
Monroe said she went to see Ferrier in July to not get paid, and Ferrier said she would pay her $1,000 of her own money. Monroe said she returned to Ferrier in August because she wasn’t being paid – and was getting married.
“She said, ‘How about I give you another $1,000, and then she said, ‘Let’s do $2,000,’ and she had a personal check for $2,000,” Monroe said.
She said Ferrier never told her about a repayment plan, although she understood she would need to repay the money. Monroe also said Ferrier never mentioned repayment with interest.
She said she never received her first check under the extended OPS contract until late July or early August, around the same time Ferrier gave her the extra $2,000: “I don’t recognize that I owed him nothing,” she said.
Monroe said the only reason she signed Ferrier’s letter about the repayment plan was because she wanted to keep her job. She said the paperwork for her upgraded post “wasn’t processed until January 2.”
She said once the issue became public, she was called to Ferrier’s office at FAMU, where Ferrier told her she was recording the conversation. She also said Ferrier rejected the idea of her moving into an office space that had already been approved.
She said she only shared full documentation regarding the dean, the money and the delayed process for the upgraded post with Provost Maurice Edington. She said she never published it to Rattler Nation.
“I put some of the blame (for the information to become public) on the university,” Monroe said. “I have an email to Edington asking how it went although I only sent it to (him).”
She said she never got an answer.
Ferrier was named dean in August 2018 and started on October 1. She was established when she was hired at FAMU.
She was the former associate dean for innovation, research, and institutional programs at Ohio University and served as an associate professor at the university’s EW Scripps School of Journalism.
Contact senior writer Byron Dobson at [email protected] or on Twitter @byrondobson.
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