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DES MOINES — University of Iowa Director of Athletics Gary Barta finished his third nearly full day of testimony Tuesday in former UI senior associate athletic director Jane Meyer’s lawsuit against UI for gender and sexual discrimination, and will open a fourth day Wednesday morning at Polk County Courthouse in Des Moines.
In the final part of initial questioning from Assistant Iowa Attorney General George Carroll, who is representing the UI, Barta again detailed more about what went into Meyer’s performance reviews during the time after she was denied the promotion to Deputy Director of Athletics and after former field hockey coach Tracey Griesbaum was fired.
While much of his testimony recalled Monday’s, the biggest addition Tuesday morning was when Barta said the aforementioned time period saw Meyer’s behavior “escalating and disruptive.”
“She was acting as if she was trying to create a case against the athletic department,” Barta said.
Barta said the time of Meyer’s reassignment from athletics and her subsequent departure from the UI has resulted in dramatic change in climate within the athletic department.
He cited his own perception as well as that of others within the department in saying that it’s improved. He said the department is “far more efficient” and the “mood and attitude is much, much better.”
On redirect, Meyer’s attorney, Tom Newkirk, focused heavily on Barta’s emails and other correspondence with coaches who expressed concerns or raised issues with working with Meyer.
Among others, Barta testified he does not exchange emails with head football coach Kirk Ferentz and does not have specific email or written exchanges between the two regarding complaints Ferentz had about working with Meyer.
Barta said he encouraged the coaches to discuss matters with Meyer themselves, but said there was no written record of those suggestions. No formal complaints were documented.
“Our discussions were all verbal,” Barta said. “On several occasions one of my suggestions was to go to her to resolve it.
“They would, on occasion, still express frustrations.”
Newkirk’s redirect was originally expected to finish Tuesday, as was any follow-up questions from Carroll, but an afternoon of methodical and specific questioning from Newkirk forced Barta’s testimony into a fourth day.
The bulk of the afternoon questioning focused on Barta’s actions and decisions during the investigation into Griesbaum’s alleged abuse of players on the field hockey team — rehashing much of what Barta testified to on Friday and Monday.
When Barta knew about the Meyer-Griesbaum relationship again was questioned, with Barta offering identical answers to his previous testimony. Barta again denied, in his testimony, treating their relationship any differently than any other.
Newkirk again sought to clarify how Barta treated the Griesbaum firing compared to other similar situations, citing the Rhabo case with Hawkeye football, but also bringing up accusations made against volleyball head coach Bond Shymansky. Newkirk asked Barta about the response to three families’ assertion of bullying from Shymansky, and Barta testified that he didn’t recall the number of families. That case was handled internally and “not turned over to HR or EOD (Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity),” Barta said.
Shymansky was not disciplined, Barta said.
Closing out the day’s testimony, Newkirk challenged Barta on three reasons Meyer might have been fired. He asked Barta if he fired Meyer because of her relationship with Griesbaum, if he fired her because she was one of the only members of the senior staff to challenge him on decisions and finally if it was to prevent her discovering a number of allegations of bullying against other sports.
Barta denied all three assertions.
Meyer is seeking lost wages of nearly $1 million, plus emotional damages, in Polk County District Court.
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