MU fires professor it won lawsuit against
COLUMBIA - The University of Missouri has fired a chemical engineering professor it won a lawsuit against last week.
A jury found Galen Suppes violated the university's intellectual property rights by interfering with the marketing of an innovative antifreeze product. The jury awarded MU $600,000.
In a statement Monday, the university's chancellor said Suppes was "terminated for cause" because he "engaged in conduct toward students, faculty, and staff that violated University rules aimed at protecting our work and learning environment."
Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said the dismissal for cause process outlined in the university's Collected Rules and Regulations lasted 11 months and included nine hearings. A panel of 12 tenured professors voted unanimously to dismiss Suppes.
"Dr. Suppes was not terminated due to his academic scholarship. He has never been a victim of censorship, nor has anyone at our University ever taken any action against him based on the content of his scholarship," Cartwright said.
A lawsuit by Dr. Suppes seeking to stop the dismissal for cause process was dismissed by a state trial court and the Missouri Court of Appeals, Cartwright noted.
The engineering dean received "numerous complaints and concerns from colleagues" about Suppes' behavior, Cartwright said.
"After years of counseling Dr. Suppes about his behavior, it was our duty to take this action to improve Mizzou’s working and learning climate," Cartwright said.
Suppes was a chemical engineering professor of 16 years.
The university was signed on to an exclusive deal with Senergy Chemical to produce a type of propylene glycol made from soy diesel byproducts, a project that Suppes and his company, Renewable Alternatives, were involved in.
The lawsuit said Suppes:
- Delayed the business relationship between UM, Missouri Soybeans and Senergy Chemical
- Refused to recognize the University's rights to the product
- Attempted to profit from the invention himself
Suppes' defense team countered by saying it was negligence and incompetence on the part of the university and its business partners that eventually tanked the deal.
The university's lawyer, Russell Jones, said Suppes ignored his employment contract to sell the product on his own.