A former Auburn track and field assistant coach is suing the University Board of Trustees and assistant head track and field coach Henry Rolle. In the 17-page lawsuit, Adrian Ghioroaie alleges he was wrongfully terminated and Rolle physically assaulted him.
Ghioroaie, who served as an assistant coach from January 2014 to May 2016, filed the lawsuit in federal court last week. In the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, Ghioroaie alleges Auburn's track and field coaches discriminated against him and refused to renew his contract after another coach physically assaulted him.
When Ghioroaie went to superiors and athletic administrators, he said he was met with indifference and was even asked if he was lying.
AL.com was the first to report the lawsuit.
When asked for a comment, a spokesman said the University does not comment on pending litigation.
In the suit, Ghioroaie accuses Rolle, who is still an assistant head coach, of physically violent outbursts, including one meeting on Oct. 1, 2015, when Rolle "got into" Ghioroaie's face and threatened to "take care" of him, according to court documents
During that meeting, Ghioroaie alleges Rolle put his hands around his neck and started to squeeze. He said he had marks around his neck for nearly two days.
"I was frightened and grabbed my cell phone to record the incident, but head coach Ralph Spry grabbed my phone out of my hand," Ghioroaie wrote in his complaint.
When other coaches attempted to intervene, Ghioroaie said Rolle picked up a metal tiger statue and started to swing it toward his head. Other coaches were able to stop Rolle from hitting him, Ghioroaie said in the complaint.
Ghioroaie said he was pressured by the head coach not to file a report with the University's Human Resources Department or with supervisors in the Athletics Department.
"Head coach Spry tried to convince all of the coaches that coach Rolle's behavior was normal and told me it was not the first time coach Rolle exhibited such behavior," Ghioroaie wrote in his complaint.
Ghioroaie wrote that he has an audio recording of the meeting and the official report submitted at the time. He also says in the complaint that he has recordings of other threatening interactions with Rolle, including one where Rolle, who is from the Bahamas, told Ghioroaie, "Where I am from people are getting their heads chopped off for talking."
Ghioroaie said Rolle made that comment after he refused to move from a certain area of the track.
Ghioroaie said he felt so overwhelmed by mounting threats from Rolle and Spry's indifference that he went to human resources. He was asked if he was lying during a March meeting and shortly after reporting the incidents, was evaluated for the first time, and his contract was not renewed in May 2016, he said.
When Ghioroaie went to track and field athletic administrator Bernard Hill, he said he was told that it "did not matter whose fault it was." Ghioroaie said Spry later told him to "stop going after" Rolle, and human resources told him "simply not to speak to Coach Rolle," even when he was faced with alleged threats from Rolle.
Ghioroaie said he was originally not given a reason for the termination of his contract and that it was without cause.
"Eventually head coach Spry asked me if I remembered when I threatened to sue the University when I complained about him and coach Rolle maintaining an unsafe, abusive and stressful working environment," Ghioroaie wrote. "I believe this was the true motivation behind failing to renew my contract."
Ghioroaie said he believed his complaint about Rolle's alleged harassment and other reports to Spry concerning potential NCAA and University safety violation were the real reason he was fired.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages from Auburn. The suit alleges that Auburn discriminated against Ghioroaie on the basis of his race and national origin based on color. Ghioroaie is a white Romanian immigrant.
"Head coach Spry, an African-American, had previously referred to coach Rolle, also an African-American, as like his own son and his right-hand man," he wrote. "All the other personnel involved in Auburn's decision to terminate me were African-American."
Ghioroaie said he believes his reputation was and continue to be damaged by the actions taken by athletics staff.
The suit also seeks harsher punitive damages from Rolle, whom Ghioroaie accuses of physical assault. Ghioroaie said he filed a police report in Auburn – a probable cause hearing was held on Sept. 13, 2016, during which witnesses testified against Rolle.
"At this hearing, several witnesses testified, including coach Mark Carroll, that coach Rolle physically attacked me," Ghioroaie said in the complaint.
There are assault charges on Alabama's online court system, but no documents from the case are available. Ghioroaie's complaint says Rolle pled guilty to harassment in order to participate in a diversion program.
This complaint is yet another in a succession of legal and ethical difficulties facing Auburn's Athletics Department. In September, the University launched a comprehensive review of the softball program after former coach Corey Myers was accused in a Title IX complaint of having inappropriate relationships with student-athletes. His father, head coach Clint Myers, was accused of allowing the relationships to go on.
And last month, men's basketball associate head coach Chuck Person was charged with bribery in a federal fraud and corruption investigation.