Appeal court green-lights professor’s case against a New Brunswick university

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New Brunswick’s Court of Appeal has rejected Mount Allison University’s effort to block a lawsuit by a prominent professor who says the school failed to abide by promises made to recruit him.

The March 23 court decision upholds a ruling last October by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Fred Ferguson that the case should proceed.

Business Prof. Steve Salterio claims he and his wife gave up lucrative jobs in Kingston, Ont., after Mount Allison University president Jean-Paul Boudreau allegedly promised to reduce his teaching load and allow him to teach specific classes.

The university and Salterio began negotiations in 2017 when Salterio was a professor at Queen’s University, Ferguson’s decision said. At the time, the professor was highly paid with an annual income of $375,000 per year, which came from various sources.

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Salterio wanted to be appointed to the university’s F.C. Manning Chair in Commerce and to be given financial support to complete his final year as senior editor of an association journal. The professor also wanted his teaching load reduced and for the first three years of his contract, to only teach courses he had previously given.

Salterio claims he got a promise or “pre-agreement” from Boudreau during an August 2018 meeting, regarding his request for teaching assignments. He said Boudreau spoke privately with the dean of the commerce department and returned to the meeting room saying the dean “can make it happen.”

The professor claims that meeting amounts to “negligent misrepresentation” because his subsequent teaching assignments allegedly did not reflect the special deal.

Mount Allison University argues that its collective agreement with teachers stipulates that faculty deans have the final say on who teaches courses in their departments. The school says the same stipulation was included in Salterio’s contract.

The university also claims that once Salterio had signed the contract he was a member of the Mount Allison faculty association and the issue should have been settled under the collective agreement, not in court.

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Salterio said he relied on the president’s promise when he and his wife left their jobs in Ontario, sold their home and agreed to purchase a home in Sackville, N.B.

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The professor did not take the job at Mount Allison and is seeking compensation for such things as lost research grants worth about $100,000, his wife’s lost salary of $101,000, and damage to his reputation.

Salterio also claims to have lost about $50,000 on the sale of their home in Kingston and $20,000 in legal costs to settle the aborted purchase of property in Sackville.

No date has been set for a trial.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

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