LATEST: James Tracy, fired FAU professor, suing school to get job back


James Tracy, the controversial former Florida Atlantic University professor known for his conspiracy theories regarding the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings and Boston Marathon bombing, will be in federal court Wednesday looking to get his job back.

To do so, Tracy will have to prove another alleged conspiracy — namely that university officials, including members of the faculty union tasked with representing him, worked together to get him fired.

The university has maintained it fired Tracy because he did not properly disclose outside employment, even when that included unpaid work related to his personal blog. Tracy was fired in January 2016.

A lawsuit filed by Tracy contends that he would not have been fired as a tenured professor if not for embarrassing the university by writing that the Sandy Hook massacre, resulting in the deaths of 26 first-graders and teachers at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., was staged by the U.S. government in order to promote gun control.

Tracy began running into trouble with FAU in 2012 when his blog posts gained national media attention and the university was swamped by complaints seeking his ouster.

Tracy, who taught a conspiracy class at FAU, argued that the blog contained his personal views and was written on his own time and fell outside the university’s disclosure rules for outside employment.

Louis Leo IV, Tracy’s attorney, recently wrote a blog for the Florida Civil Rights Coalition asserting his client’s lawsuit “may very well be the most important free speech case pending in the United States right now” in relation to tenured professors, who typically are afforded wide academic freedoms.

“Stay tuned, as we put the First Amendment to the test … ” Leo wrote.

In 2013, Tracy reached an agreement with FAU in which he agreed to take the university’s name off his blog — named Memory Hole — and to make clear that his writings expressed only his opinion.

Between 2013 and 2015, when FAU began taking steps to fire Tracy, a series of public relations scandals — including naming the football stadium after a private prison company and the “Stomp on Jesus” debacle in which a professor asked students to write “Jesus” on paper, then step on it — combined with the Tracy fallout to cause Mary Jane Saunders to step down as university president.

In late 2015, FAU began requiring professors to sign disclosure forms detailing outside employment and professional activities. Tracy refused to comply.

Tracy received advice from faculty union representatives to sign the forms, but conflicting information about whether he could file a grievance against the policy.

Before Tracy finally signed the agreement, he received a disciplinary notice from the university. Tracy claims in his lawsuit that he asked union officials to file a grievance, but they refused to do so.

Tracy also says that university and union officials met regarding his situation without his knowledge.

Doug McGetchin, the union’s committee chairman for grievances and contract enforcement, admitted during testimony in court depositions that not representing Tracy “was a wrong position to take.”

Asked why he didn’t even meet with Tracy as he had with other faculty members with grievances, McGetchin answered: ‘I guess I was scared of him, is part of it. Or I was scared of the issue.” He then adds, “And of the — the public furor.”

Several FAU faculty and administrators are expect to testify in the trial, possibly including university president John Kelly.

An FAU spokesman declined comment Tuesday regarding the trial.




Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Publix west of Delray sells winning Fantasy 5 ticket
BREAKING: Publix west of Delray sells winning Fantasy 5 ticket

A Publix Super Market in suburban Delray Beach sold one of three winning Fantasy 5 tickets in Monday’s statewide drawing, the Florida Lottery said. The ticket pays $58,971.19 and bears numbers 1-8-13-26-30. The player bought the ticket at the Publix in the Villages of Oriole Plaza on West Atlantic Avenue and Hagen Ranch Road. The other two winning...
BREAKING: Car chase leads to arrest of suspect in Jupiter shooting incident
BREAKING: Car chase leads to arrest of suspect in Jupiter shooting incident

One person was taken into custody Monday afternoon after a shooting incident and a police pursuit in Jupiter.  Police responded just before 4:30 p.m. to reports of shots fired at a vehicle on Summer Avenue, found the suspect’s vehicle and pulled it over in the 1100 block of Military Trail, south of Toney Penna Drive near the post office...
FAU to bring ‘convenience’ to students with early voting
FAU to bring ‘convenience’ to students with early voting

Expectations for a surge in voting by younger citizens this Election Day  are getting a boost on two fronts: Florida Atlantic University will host an early voting site; and Palm Beach County schools are encouraging students who have turned 18 to register. FAU received the green light to open its Boca Raton campus as a polling place...
JUST IN: Jury set to decide if man was sane when infant nearly drowned
JUST IN: Jury set to decide if man was sane when infant nearly drowned

A jury may decide Tuesday whether Bryan Patrice attempted to drown his baby three years ago while high on synthetic drugs or if the incident was the result of a mentally ill man caught in a psychotic breakdown. Patrice, 41, is charged with aggravated child abuse, attempted second-degree murder, domestic battery and resisting an officer without...
Why Gardens officials worry about Bear’s Club land swap in Jupiter
Why Gardens officials worry about Bear’s Club land swap in Jupiter

Motivated in part by complaints from residents who live across the street, city officials are fighting The Bears Club’s request to the county to let it develop 15 acres of conservation land. RELATED: Commissioners postpone vote on Jack Nicklaus’ Bear’s Club land swap Jack Nicklaus’ invitation-only Bears Club is on the north...
More Stories