By Ben Peters
Athens NEWS Associate Editor
The former director of Ohio University’s LGBT Center, delfin bautista, who was ousted in January 2019, is expected to file a lawsuit in the coming days against the university in federal court, alleging it discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, their attorney said.
“We believe that a jury will agree that delfin’s termination was due to them reporting gender identity and sexual orientation based discrimination … I am honored to take this case. delfin [who uses they/them pronouns and the lowercase spelling of their name] and I hope that it will serve the LGBTQ community in higher education and particularly Athens,” bautista’s attorney Mike Fradin said in a statement.
The university at the time did not initially provide a clear reasoning for letting go of bautista, prompting backlash among students and members of the LGBTQ community, much of it aimed at Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban who authorized their removal.
It was later revealed through an internal audit made public in February 2019 that bautista, who’s remained a prominent figure in Athens activism, made more than $6,000 worth of purchases through the LGBT Center that were not covered under university policy.
bautista alleged at the time they were never notified of concerns about their spending until OU student newspaper The Post published a story on the audit’s findings. They maintained that all of their expenditures that were questioned in the audit — including meals purchased for students, volunteers, staff and bautista — had legitimate business purposes.
Much of the money was spent on comfort meals and entertainment for OU students, including a $109.51 expenditure for a “self-care meal (students upset over inauguration)” of U.S. President Donald Trump at El Camino in Athens; a $77.95 “self-care” dinner at Applebee’s for a student who was hospitalized; and a $86.10 “self-care staff meeting — staff feeling burnt out” at OU’s now-defunct Shively Dining Hall.
Jeff Davis, who heads the university’s Internal Audit Office, recommended to Secuban at the time that she consult with OU’s finance office to determine if bautista should be required to reimburse the university.
bautista and another colleague were subsequently ordered by the university to either pay back the money or provide documentation and itemized receipts for transactions flagged in the audit as out of bounds, WOUB Public Media reported at the time.
The university mandated that bautista reimburse $6,319.98, though they haven’t repaid anything to date, a university spokesperson said. Fradin said the lawsuit is expected to allege that the university violated labor laws by requiring bautista to pay back certain expenses.
In a lengthy response to the university audit, bautista at the time offered explanations for nearly all of the expenditures.
“Many of the meals were for the leadership team and members of the student group SHADES, a group for LGBTQ people of color,” bautista wrote. “Because of transitions in their leadership, SHADES was not able to obtain funding from the university. As director, I decided to help the group re-establish itself and offered funding through the (LGBT) center.”
“As reflected in the agendas I submitted with receipts, many of the conversations with members of SHADES focused on re-energizing the leadership of the group, recruitment strategies, planning of events, and exploring topics such as navigating the realities of being a double minority group at a predominately white institution and community,” bautista wrote.
Davis, in a supplemental document dated Dec. 14, 2018, noted at the time that among university employees, bautista ranked the eighth highest in terms of overall spending for meals in Athens in fiscal year 2018.