As we've reported, former University of Colorado Boulder assistant coach Joe Tumpkin was charged with five felony second-degree-assault counts and three misdemeanor third-degree-assault beefs earlier this year related to allegations from his onetime significant other, who says he abused her more than 100 times. Now, however, the woman in question, Pamela Fine, has filed a lawsuit against Tumpkin and several powerful figures at the university under her own name for reasons her attorney says were both personal and outward-looking.
"It was a very difficult decision," says Peter Ginsberg, the New York-based lawyer who represents Fine in the case against Tumpkin, head football coach Mike MacIntyre, CU Boulder athletic director Rick George, chancellor Phil DiStefano and president Bruce Benson. "She went back and forth for quite a while. But ultimately, Pam decided she didn't want to be intimidated any longer, and she felt that she could better serve as a role model by taking a strong and, I think, quite brave stand."
The suit, accessible below, makes a powerful statement, too. Not only does it castigate Tumpkin for his behavior, but it holds MacIntyre and company responsible for bungling the matter in ways that mirror past mistakes made by CU Boulder, as outlined in a section titled "The University’s History of Mishandling Sex-Based Harassment and Assault."
CU essentially acknowledged errors in the latest case this past June, when DiStefano was suspended for ten days and both MacIntyre, to whom Fine first reached out, and George were ordered to make $100,000 donations to a domestic-violence fund. But in this case, Fine is clearly hoping for more than what was perceived by critics as a wrist slap designed to provide public-relations cover for re-signing MacIntyre, the Home Depot Coach of the Year in 2016, to a $14.85 million contract extension that just happened to include — surprise! — a $100,000 bonus.
Not that the university is ready to open its bank account to make the lawsuit go away. CU Boulder's official response reads in part, "The claims in the lawsuit are not well-founded factually or legally, and we will defend our employees aggressively."
The suit is summarized like so: "By this action, Plaintiff seeks to recover for injuries she sustained as a result of Defendants’ wrongdoing, including, inter alia, Tumpkin’s physical, psychological and verbal abuse of Plaintiff, Tumpkin’s supervisors’ disgraceful reaction and inaction following learning of Tumpkin’s abuse of Plaintiff and the danger he posed to Plaintiff as well as to the entire University community and beyond, and all Defendants’ willful and wanton lack of care, including MacIntyre’s decision, rather than to protect Plaintiff once she notified him of Tumpkin’s abuse, instead to cover up the abuse, protect his football program and, in doing so, jeopardize Plaintiff’s safety and well-being, all with the knowledge and complicity of the other Defendants. Individually and collectively, Defendants placed their concern for the University’s football program, post-season bowl prospects, post-season coaching awards, and reputational interests of the University Athletic Program before and above their legal and ethical obligations owed to Plaintiff."
More evidence that the suit pulls no punches comes in a section that outlines past embarrassments at the university. Central among them was the so-called CU recruiting scandal, which resulted in the school agreeing to pay $2.85 million to two women, Lisa Simpson and Anne Gilmore, whose claims of having been sexually assaulted in 2001 led to years of terrible publicity for the school and the departures of head football coach Gary Barnett and CU president Elizabeth "Betsy" Hoffman.
Years later, the inquiry also revealed a prior investigation of current Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph.
Even more interesting is a list of happenings over the past decade or so "in which sex-based harassment and assault occurred outside the Athletic Department and was mishandled," the suit allows. Below, read about ten incidents, many of which received relatively little attention, especially in comparison with the Simpson-Gilmore matter:
A. In 2006, a female student reported to a University employee that she had been sexually assaulted. The University employee did not report the alleged assault to any University officials.
B. In 2007, a University faculty member reported race-based and gender-based discrimination to the Dean, who failed to report the allegations to the OIEC [Office of Institutional Equity and Compliance].
C. In 2009, two female University students reported concerns of sexual harassment by their supervisor to a male faculty member, who was unresponsive, told them there was “no issue,” and failed to report the allegations to the OIEC.
D. In 2010, a female University employee was harassed by a male University employee about her disability. A supervisor saw the harassment, did not intervene, and did not report the incident to the OIEC.
E. Also in 2010, a University student-employee reported to her supervisor that she felt sexually harassed by a manager. The supervisor did not report her allegations to the OIEC.
F. Again in 2010, despite previously having been disciplined for a failure to report an incident to the OIEC, a supervisor did not report a student-employee’s allegation that she felt sexually harassed by a manager for over a year.
G. In 2013, a University supervisor made harassing comments about an employee’s race, color, and national origin and then fired him after he complained to a higher office. The University employee who received the employee’s complaint failed to file a report with the OIEC.
H. Also in 2013, a University student reported gender-based and sexual-orientation-based harassment by another student to a University employee who did not effectively address the alleged harassment or report the issue and then retaliated against the student.
I. Again in 2013, a University employee became aware of rumors that another employee was being subjected to sexual harassment in November, but did not report it to the OIEC until the following February.
J. In 2013, Sarah Gilchriese, a female University student, filed a grievance against the University under Title IX for delaying and insufficiently sanctioning a male student who sexually assaulted her. Gilchriese’s Complaint sparked a federal investigation into the way the Boulder campus sanctions sexual violence and otherwise handles sexual violence complaints.
In addition to revealing her identity publicly, Fine also penned a short essay that she shared through Ginsburg.
"On December 9, 2016, when I reached out to Coach MacIntyre, it was out of fear for Joe, myself, other women, the players, and the community of Boulder because Joe had become very dangerous to himself and others," she wrote. "I didn't want to publicly hurt Joe, the coaching staff and their wives, and all the Colorado football players who had worked so hard to get to their first bowl game. I wanted to protect my abuser and the people around him. I finally picked up the phone to tell my truth to a trusted leader, whom I believed would help Joe. Instead, I unintentionally walked into a world that I had read about but did not believe. For that, I apologize to every survivor whom I secretly questioned in my head as I read their stories of being marginalized and re-victimized by the machine of college athletics."
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Fine added: "So, this is no longer about protecting the man who abused me and the powerful men who decided not to do what they were morally, contractually, and legally required to do. I am no longer protecting the men who silence victims in the name of winning football games. I am now standing up for the young women who sit in my office, where I am a Dean in a large, public high school, every day getting ready to go off to college. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to be heard. They deserve a different future than the women who came before them. My voice is now for them."
Ginsberg says the statement and the lawsuit shouldn't be considered separate entities. In his words, "The two were intertwined." As for CU's consistent claim that its motives were good even if mistakes were made, he says, "If Pam and I believed the university's spin, the lawsuit wouldn't have been filed."
Click to read Pamela Fine v. Joseph Tumpkin et. al.