Columbia International University President Mark Smith is being accused of retaliating against an attorney who investigated allegations that Smith's son sexually harassed women and made racial comments when the father and son worked together at an Ohio college, according to federal court documents.
Smith and his son, Doug Smith, worked at Ohio Christian University when the alleged harassment occurred. Mark Smith was the college's president. They now both work at Columbia International, a Christian university in north Columbia, a spokesman confirmed Tuesday.
The CIU spokesman said the university conducted full background checks on both Smiths before they were hired. Mark Smith was hired before the lawsuits were filed.
Jeremy Davitz, the former top attorney at Ohio Christian, alleges in one federal lawsuit that he was fired after determining that Doug Smith could no longer work at the school because of the allegations.
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In the lawsuit, Davitz accused Doug Smith of "rampant sexual harassment." Smith allegedly tried to put his finger in the mouth of a university student and employee — Cynthia Dove — while the two worked together at the college's information technology desk.
"That was a slut test. If they close their mouth, they're a slut," Doug Smith allegedly said, according to Davitz' lawsuit and a separate one Dove filed.
Davitz also accused Doug Smith of covertly taking a picture of a coworker's buttocks and posting the picture on social media with the caption, "this is why we hire women." He allegedly told a co-worker she had "hair long enough to pull on," and that her jeans were so tight "they looked painted on."
According to the lawsuits, Doug Smith also made several racial comments. When a co-worker dropped a ladder, he yelled "stop being such a Jew" and ignored Dove when she told him she was Jewish and that his comment offended her.
He also is accused of saying he "hates" African-Americans and Mexicans, allegedly calling the former "entitled" and the latter "dirty freeloaders." He told a co-worker that he was "dead serious" about his views of both groups, according to the lawsuits.
He also is accused of saying he hated "gay people."
Before CIU hired Doug Smith, it conducted a "full background and reference check . . . including former employer references," spokesman Bob Holmes said in an emailed statement. "According to Doug’s attorney, the lawsuit from when he was an OCU part-time student worker has been resolved."
It's unclear which lawsuit he was referring to, as court records indicate both cases are ongoing as of Tuesday afternoon. Holmes would not say how long Doug Smith has been employed at CIU.
Davitz said that when he told Mark Smith in spring 2016 his son had to be fired at Ohio Christian University, the president allegedly banged his fists on the desk, shouted at Davitz and threatened to sue both Davitz and the college, according the the lawsuit.
After that, Davitz accused Mark Smith of stripping him of his responsibilities, badmouthing him to the board of trustees and eventually firing him in January 2017.
Mark Smith, whose contract would have allowed him to stay until 2025, resigned in January 2017. A month later, Columbia International's board of trustees selected him as president.
In selecting Mark Smith, the board of trustees cited the recommendation of former Columbia International President Dr. Bill Jones after the two met at a religious conference, according to a news release.
"Columbia International University fully vetted Dr. Mark A. Smith prior to hiring him as CIU president, and found him to be an exceptional candidate for office," Holmes said. "Several months after his hiring, two lawsuits were filed against Ohio Christian University naming Dr. Smith and several other administrators. Upon receiving the lawsuits, Dr. Smith immediately communicated with the CIU Board of Trustees and was completely transparent throughout the process. Upon review, CIU supports and has complete confidence in Dr. Smith."
The lawsuits originally were reported by The Circleville Herald, where Ohio Christian University is based.
The State reached out to Doug and Mark Smith both directly and through their attorneys, but none could be reached for comment. Holmes said both Mark and Doug are not available for comment.