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Suing the Bosses

Skip Garner, the former director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, is suing four senior administrators at Virginia Tech for $11 million and his old position back, the Roanoke Times reports.

Garner was hired in 2009 as the executive director of VBI and as a tenured professor in the biological sciences department. After an audit of VBI's 2011 operations, Garner was replaced in 2012. He is still a tenured professor at the school.

In a complaint filed last month, Garner argues that his demotion was not justified, in conflict with school policy, and in violation of his constitutional rights, the Roanoke Times says. The complaint also says that school officials publicly accused Garner of failing the audit, harming his professional reputation and affecting his income; Garner further says the audit's findings reflect small, honest mistakes.

Tech spokesman Larry Hincker tells the Roanoke Times that Garner's reassignment was in line with university terms of employment and was not a sanction. He also says that Garner's salary is higher than when he started.

One of the issues raised by the audit, according to the Roanoke Times, was a possible conflict of interest on Garner's part as he, in addition to his role as director and professor, was a consultant for an outside company. While that was acceptable based on the university's conflict of interest rules at that time, Hincker says, the audit noted that there was a proposal being made to change the rules that would have changed the situation.

The Roanoke Times notes that Virginia Tech hired "Garner because he was known not only for academic research but also for his private sector connections."

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