Stony Brook University athletic director Jim Fiore was fired because the conclusions of an internal investigation into a female subordinate's harassment complaint raised serious concern among the school's leadership, a source familiar with the investigation said Wednesday.
The university's leadership was faced with two options: to either pay out the remainder of Fiore's contract, worth nearly $800,000, or go through the dismissal process of the United University Professions, the faculty and staff union Fiore belongs to, the source said.
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"He would've gone through a process that would have taken at least a year, perhaps two or more years, and he would've still kept his job, and his salary, not to mention the university would've been saddled with legal costs and the outcome would've been uncertain," the source said. "It was determined that it was in the best interest of the university to end its relationship [with Fiore] as quickly as possible."
The public university bought out the remaining 31 months of Fiore's contract and announced his departure Nov. 19.
Fiore, through a spokesman, maintains that his contract with the university was not terminated because of a disciplinary action and says neither the university's investigation nor a state Department of Labor inquiry into the claim resulted in any disciplinary charges.
The harassment complaint was filed in 2012, the source and Fiore spokesman Michael Conte said. It involved text messages Fiore sent to his female subordinate that were thought to be inappropriate, the source said.
Details from the complaint's filing are unknown. However the university's leadership, based on the evidence it gathered and reviewed, felt its findings were "alarming enough" to warrant Fiore's termination, the source said. Keeping Fiore in his position would have had a negative effect on the athletic department and the campus community, the source said.
After ESPNw published a story Tuesday that included allegations that Fiore had discriminated against and sexually harassed staffers and students, Stony Brook University officials Wednesday said they had received a complaint.
"We got a single complaint within the athletic department from one university employee. We took the complaint seriously and acted promptly to understand and respond to the issues raised," Stony Brook spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said. "The university takes all claims of discrimination and sexual harassment seriously and reviews them in a timely manner."
Sheprow declined to provide details of the complaint.
University officials since Nov. 19 have declined to say why Fiore was ousted, citing confidentiality on personnel matters.
The ESPNw story cited unidentified sources and documents, reporting they were received by the state attorney general's office and the state inspector general.
A spokesman for Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has declined to comment. Officials at the inspector general's office couldn't be reached for comment.
The State University of New York system said the issue was being dealt with on the campus level and referred all questions to the Stony Brook administration.
"The ESPNw story by Kate Fagan is absolutely outrageous and rife with falsehoods," Fiore said in a statement issued Wednesday through Conte. "It is blatantly defamatory and my legal representatives have issued a cease and desist letter to ESPNw and any media outlet that has sourced or reprinted this article. The anonymous, 'kitchen sink' allegations that have been made against me are absolutely false. I cannot help but think that the motives of the unnamed 'sources' serve no purpose other than someone's obvious financial gain and to hurt me personally and professionally. I will vigorously fight these bogus claims and defend my reputation."
Diane Lamb, a spokeswoman for ESPN, said, "We stand by Kate's reporting."
Fiore, 44, a Long Beach native, was named Stony Brook athletic director on July 23, 2003. He is widely credited with improving the university's athletic success, including seeing the baseball team make a trip to the College World Series in 2012.
Fiore's contract would have run through June 2016.
With Yancey Roy