Morgan aide quits after losing harassment suit Alabama ruling spurs his decision

February 06, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

A day after he was hit with an $80,000 judgment for sexually harassing and assaulting a former subordinate, Leon Howard yesterday resigned his position as executive assistant to the president of Morgan State University, according to Morgan President Earl S. Richardson.

A federal jury in Montgomery, Ala., ruled Thursday in favor of the Rev. Venus D. Longmire, who worked for Alabama State University from 1987 to 1990 when Dr. Howard was the president there. He took the job as a $70,000-a-year executive assistant at Morgan last September.

Dr. Richardson -- who has said he knew little about Dr. Howard's troubles in Alabama when he hired him -- said yesterday that Dr. Howard resigned to avoid hurting Morgan.

"He knows the potential damage of these things to a university and would not want in any way to taint the image of Morgan State," Dr. Richardson said.

Dr. Richardson said Dr. Howard offered to resign with no pressure from him.

Before the resignation was announced, however, an influential state legislator was already calling for Dr. Howard's departure.

"For him to be a high-ranking administrator at Morgan, I think, sends the wrong message," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Mr. Rawlings, a longtime advocate for Morgan State, said he called Dr. Richardson yesterday to make the case for Dr. Howard's departure.

Although Dr. Howard's problems were widely publicized in Alabama -- he was forced to resign as Alabama State president because of Ms. Longmire's allegations -- Dr. Richardson said he did not have all the facts about the case when he hired Dr. Howard to come to Baltimore.

"If I had known the facts that this was the situation, of course I wouldn't have hired him," Dr. Richardson said. "Of course, we didn't know this was the case."

Dr. Howard resigned as president of Alabama State in March 1991 after Ms. Longmire made public her charges. A month later, he was indicted on a charge of attempted rape. He eventually pleaded guilty to the much lesser charge of harassing communications, admitting that he had called Ms. Longmire and sent cards and letters to her.

Dr. Howard was sentenced to six months of unsupervised probation and fined $300. Ms. Longmire later filed a civil suit, which led to this week's verdict.

Neither Dr. Howard nor his lawyers could be reached for comment yesterday. He is expected to appeal the verdict.

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