From an obscure small-claims case to a high-profile murder case, our justice system rides on a quaint notion--that people will tell the truth when under oath in an official proceeding. If you have a conscience and ever become entangled in a legal controversy, you probably will be shocked to notice early on that someone in the proceedings does not take sworn oaths seriously. Depending on the size of the case, you are likely to encounter several someones who give sworn testimony that includes more falsehoods than truths. And you can bet the proverbial ranch, if you have one, that they will get away with it.
Why is this? For one, lawyers and judges are supposed to be running the show, but they often encourage lying under oath, they look the other way when it happens--or both. It's wildly ironic that the U.S. government has gone after baseball's Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, stars of our supposed pastime, for allegedly making false statements under oath. In fact, perjury has become America's new pastime, and Bonds and Clemens finally figured they might as well go along for the ride.
If someone said to me, "Schnauzer, I want to commit a crime, and I want it to be one where I'm almost guaranteed not to be caught or punished. As a legal scholar, what would you suggest?" My answer, every time, would be, "Perjure yourself; everyone does it."
I've seen so many falsehoods stated under oath during my 12-year legal sojourn that they hardly make me blink anymore. But even I was taken aback at the knee-slappers in an affidavit signed, under oath and penalty of perjury, by Pam Powell, my former boss at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Her affidavit was one of several filed by various UAB folks to support the university's motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit over my unlawful termination after almost 20 years on the job in various editorial positions.
The Powell affidavit was an eye-catcher because this was not someone I barely knew. I had known her almost the entire time I was at UAB, and worked under her for almost 11 years after she hired me to be an assistant editor in the Publications Office. We'd had a cordial relationship for almost all of that time, my performance reviews always were positive, I always received performance-based raises when they were available, and I never received any kind of discipline as prescribed by university policy.
Powell had acted like a loon for roughly my last six months on the job, regularly making bogus accusations against me and setting me up with concocted standards that did not apply to my younger and/or female coworkers. I figured, for most of that time, that her behavior must be explained by some stress that was unknown to me. By the time I was placed on administrative leave and fired in May 2008, it was clear that stress was not the problem. Rather, her conscience had exited, stage left. After reading her affidavit, I'm starting to think she never had a conscience.
My ex boss' affidavit is filled with misrepresentations and distortions from beginning to end. But let's focus on just a few of her world-class whoppers. And again, these statements were made under penalty of perjury, which is a crime. All of the UAB affidavits contained false statements, and I filed a motion to have them stricken as submitted in bad faith, pursuant to Rule 56(h) FRCP. That means UAB had no legitimate evidence to support its motion for summary judgment; it also meant that offending parties and attorneys could have been sanctioned and held in contempt of court. But wildly corrupt U.S. District Judge William M. Acker Jr. ignored my motion, which came as no surprise. (You can read the motion to strike at the end of this post.)
If we were at Burger King, we might call these Pam Powell's Triple Whopper Combo:
The Single Whopper
Item No. 7 in Powell's affidavit states, "Shuler was not terminated based on retaliation, age discrimination, or his speech."
Regular readers know that I had a tape-recorded conversation with UAB human-resources official Anita Bonasera in which she admitted that I was targeted because of the content on my blog about the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO (and UAB alumnus) Richard Scrushy. I've turned that audio tape into a YouTube video that you can view at the following link:
Bonasera states that Powell and others had university IT personnel monitor my computer usage for any signs that I had looked at items regarding the Siegelman case. UAB admits that keeping up with Alabama news--and the Siegelman case was the biggest story in the state at the time--was part of my job description. It also admits that I never wrote the first word of my blog on university time or equipment. But Bonasera mentions Siegelman's name twice, and references my blog, in explaining what Powell was looking for with the IT people. In other words, I was fired because of my speech about the Siegelman case on this blog. Pam Powell knew it, and she lied about it under oath.
The Double Whopper
Item No. 9 in Powell's affidavit states, "Beginning in November of 2005, Shuler spent excessive time away from the office for lunch and errands and often did not provide a means of contacting him. Around this time (in late 2005) Shuler also reacted with anger and defiance to an oral warning from me because of a client complaint about late delivery of a magazine he managed. I began documenting problems with his performance in notes which are attached hereto as Exhibit 1 to my affidavit."
First, it's interesting to note that Powell doesn't say what she means about excessive time for lunch and errands or how it compares to others in our group, including her. She doesn't say that I was a salaried employee who often was subject to working more than eight hours a day. She also doesn't say that we had no designated lunch times, and when she did ask me to put down a means of contacting me when I was away from the office, I did exactly that.
The more important item is this: Powell says I reacted "with anger and defiance" to an oral warning. The record shows that it was a written warning, I have the document to prove it, and that's why I objected to it. In this instance, the magazine was late because the School of Business development and alumni directors had asked me to hold it in order to get news about certain events in the magazine--and I had made this clear in my job notes. So I was getting written up for doing what my client asked me to do. But even if I had done anything that merited official intervention, UAB's progressive-discipline problem states that an oral warning is the first step. I objected because Powell was not following university policy. And I did not react "with anger and defiance"; I simply stated that no discipline was warranted, but I definitely was not going to sign a written warning that was prepared contrary to UAB policy.
Powell's statement shows that she clearly had it in for me from that moment forward, dating to late 2005. It also shows an indirect form of dishonesty. Powell says she has attached notes about my alleged performance deficiencies to her affidavit. That's interesting because, as I've reported previously, Powell was asked several times at my grievance hearing to provide copies of documents to support her claims that my performance had been declining, I had ignored warnings from her on various subjects, etc.
Each time, Powell said she had no such documents. But now she suddenly has documents to attach to an affidavit? A reasonable person can come to only one of two conclusions: (1) Pam Powell lied to the UAB grievance hearing; or (2) She concocted her affidavit notes after the fact, after I had been fired, in an effort to justify the unjustifiable.
The Triple Whopper
Item No. 13 in Powell's affidavit states that UAB Alumni Director Becky Watson expressed unhappiness in December 2007 with work I did on a magazine for her office. Powell goes on to state in item 14: "One year prior to this (in December 2006), Watson had become so unhappy with Shuler's handling of the project that she had asked me to remove him from the job. I persuaded her to give him one more chance--with the understanding that if she became unhappy with his work again, I would remove him from the job. So in December of 2007, I had to make good on this promise."
Powell's statement seems curiously at odds with the sentiments in an e-mail I received from Becky Watson on April 17, 2007. It was copied to Powell and her superior, Associate Vice President Dale Turnbough, and came just as the spring 2007 issue of the magazine had been delivered:
They arrived on Friday. The staff feels like this is our "best" magazine yet! Thanks for your hard work and continuous follow up on this magazine. As you may have heard, Lori Cork is leaving our office. Your new contact will be Amy Taylor. She and I will continue to work with you to make sure the next magazine is just as good as this last one. Thanks, Becky.
Rebecca V. Watson
Assistant Vice President
Alumni Affairs and Annual Giving
516 20th Street South
Birmingham, AL 35294-4555
This was in the middle of the time frame during which Powell claimed Watson was unhappy with my work. I don't know about you, but Becky Watson has a strange way of voicing displeasure. It sounds an awful lot like overflowing praise. And it sure looks like Pam Powell was lying under oath in her affidavit.