The state's largest newspaper is now involved in a University journalism professor's fight to clear his name of harassment charges.
A district court ordered a deposition for Kelly Simmons, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter and current University employee, to reveal the identities of sources she used in a June 2005 story about the Office of Legal Affairs' investigation in claims against John Soloski, a Grady College professor and former dean. The deposition was ordered last week after Simmons' and the AJC's requests for dropping the subpoena were denied. The release of identities would aid Soloski's claim that the University invaded his privacy during the 2005 investigation, the documents state.
The OLA investigated May 2005 claims filed by Janet Jones Kendall, a former Grady College employee and now a School of Social Work public relations specialist, against Soloski, then dean of Grady College, which claimed he commented on a dress that showed off her "assets," according to the documents.
On June 17, 2005, the AJC ran Simmons' article about the ongoing investigation. The Office found Soloski in violation of the Non-Discimination and Anti-Harassment Policy on June 29, 2005, and he resigned as dean the next day. Soloski filed a 2006 lawsuit against University President Michael Adams and the Board of Regents after the University denied his appeals on the harassment charges. A federal judge recommended the University clear Soloski of charges on Nov. 26 of last year. In documents filed Dec. 23, Adams and the Board of Regents filed objections to the court's recommendations.
Simmons, now an Office of Public Affairs magazine editor, and the AJC claim she is protected from revealing sources under the Georgia qualified reporters' privilege, the documents state. The privilege protects newspaper reporters from the "disclosure of any information, document or item obtained ... in the gathering or dissemination of news." The policy can be waived if the information is found relevant, cannot be obtained by other means or is necessary to a case presentation, the documents state.
Soloski's claims of invasion of privacy fall under an expectation that the NDAH policy would keep the case details private until the investigation's completion. The claim also includes interpretations of "public disclosure of embarrassing facts, and publicity which places the plaintiff in a false light in the public eye," according to court documents. Remaining issues in Soloski's case are whether the existence of the harassment investigation was a private fact, and whether revealed sources are persons whose actions the University would remain liable for, the documents state.
Efforts to reach Simmons and Soloski's lawyer were unsuccessful Thursday afternoon.