Photo by Daniel Gabriel.

This is a developing story. Check back with Knight News for updates.

Legal counsel for the two faculty members accused of helping a student obtain a doctoral degree in exchange for grant funding has filed letters to the university in response to their termination.

In January, the director and two faculty members of UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training were given notices of termination, following an investigation that started in fall 2018.

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Lauren Reinerman-Jones and Daniel Barber received “Notice of Intent to Terminate” letters on Jan. 27.

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Counsel for Reinerman-Jones and Barber submitted responses to UCF’s Notices of Intent to Terminate on Feb. 6, according to the release.

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“We are reviewing the materials submitted on behalf of Dr. Barber and Dr. Reinerman-Jones as part of their due process,” UCF spokesman Chad Binette said in a Thursday email.

The Report

In the letters of response addressed to Elizabeth Klonoff, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, the faculty member’s counsel states the initial press release UCF sent out was written a manner that deliberately damaged the reputation — and mischaracterized the allegations against — Reinerman-Jones and Barber.

Both letters — signed by attorney Hal K. Litchford with the Baker Donelson firm — state neither Reinerman-Jones nor Barber can “understand entirely the basis for the Termination Notice and thus to respond fully and meaningfully.”

Litchford said the 109-page report is too heavily redacted.

According to the media summary provided by UCF, redactions to the report were made within Florida statutes.

Reinerman-Jones’ letter, Litchford states the “sensational story UCF publicly released is unfounded factually and based on a sloppy and flawed investigation,” and that no factual evidence exists that Reinerman-Jones knew the Ph.D. student was managing the funding or that she was benefiting.

Litchford demanded an unreacted version of the document for both individuals to properly respond, each letter reads.

Alleged Violations of UCF’s Employee Code of Conduct

In the letter, the attorney states the allegations that Reinerman-Jones violated UCF’s “Code of Conduct by failing to consistently treat graduate students working in labs at IST with respect and dignity” are unfounded and she denies ever treating students disrespectfully.

The attorney wrote Reinerman-Jones was non-responsiveness to students was while she was on maternity leave and that it is “hard to imagine a more clear cut example of workplace discrimination.”

“Your decision to retaliate against Dr. Reinerman-Jones by terminating her employment based on tenuous speculation and incorrect information was made worse by UCF’s decision to issue a press release to the media”

The same phase was replicated in Barber’s letter.

“UCF’s actions to publish the Termination Notice to the media compounded the injury to Dr. Barber’s reputation, emotional and mental state, and livelihood and violated his rights,” Litchford wrote.

Knight News requested the termination letters through a public records request and published the letters, where it was each letter advised Reinerman-Jones and Barber of the university’s intention to terminate their employment at the end of the business day on Feb. 7.

Reinerman-Jones’ letter states “severe misconduct,” while Barber’s letter states “conduct” as the reason for the notice of intent to terminate.

The release states Reinerman-Jones and Barber look forward to resolving this issue and clearing their names, and no further public comment on this matter.

This is a developing story. Check back with Knight News for updates.