SOFTBALL: Injunction hearing in former Lamar coaches’ case set for Monday

A hearing for a temporary restraining order against Lamar University in the termination of head softball coach Holly Bruder and associate head coach Allison Honkofsky has been set for 9 a.m. Monday in the Jefferson County 60th Judicial District Court.

Beaumont attorney Cade Bernsen filed the injunction against the university Wednesday. Bruder and Honkofsky seek to be reinstated to their positions and prevent Lamar from taking further adverse action.

Lamar fired Bruder and Honkofsky on May 11 after both refused to resign in the wake of Bruder’s being placed on administrative leave. The father of former Lamar catcher Paige Holmes reportedly threatened legal action alleging that Bruder violated Holmes’ civil rights during a road trip on March 9 by having a member of the team’s staff force her to eat a sandwich with meat while Holmes, who is Catholic, had given up bread for Lent and could not eat meat on Fridays. Bruder was placed on leave April 27 with six games remaining, and assistant coach Demi Laney took over in the interim.

Lamar has not commented publicly on the allegations but, in a statement issued four days after Bruder’s and Honkofsky’s firing, said that it “conducted a thorough investigation regarding a violation of university policy pertaining to the softball program. Lamar University’s primary mission is to educate our students. Any allegation that could affect the well-being and success of our students is taken very seriously. We are moving forward with the search for a new head coach.”

The university has not responded to a request for comment on the upcoming hearing. Lamar has not yet named a new head coach.

According to the filing, Lamar athletic director Marco Born, who was hired March 29, informed both Bruder and Honkofsky on May 11 that they could resign or be terminated. It adds Born then opened a folder with “some papers in it” and asked Bruder to sign the papers. She asked for her attorney to review the papers, but was allegedly told they could not review the paperwork.

Honkofsky was denied the chance to have her attorney meet with Born in his office the same day, but Born assured Honkofsky she did not have to sign paperwork without an attorney, according to the filing. She was also told to sign and return the paperwork by 2 p.m. May 14 or be fired, the filing adds, but she raised several questions and concerns about her firing and informed Born on May 16 she would not resign because she did nothing wrong to warrant being fired and she would appeal under LU policy.

The filing adds that Born informed Honkofsky in an email May 17 that Lamar will end her employment effective Aug. 31, adding Honkofsky will work from home and receive assignments directly from him for the rest of her employment.

Bernsen accused Lamar of not following its own human resource policies and trying “to change the rules of the game.” Lamar is accused of denying Honkofsky a hearing of her appeal because she “continue[d] to be employed with the university and that [her] salary and benefits remain the same.”

On May 30, according to the filing, she and Bruder were informed by Lamar’s counsel that the university human resources policy manual was not applicable because it’s “inconsistent” with Texas State University System policy.

Bruder is scheduled for a hearing with Lamar vice president for university advancement Juan Zabala on June 12, but Bernsen wrote that Honkofsky has not received any information from Lamar’s human resources office regarding her second grievance an appeal.

Bruder was Lamar’s first head coach since softball was reinstated at the university for the 2013 season after a 26-year absence. Lamar went 167-174 in six seasons under Bruder, but finished runner-up in the Southland Conference tournament to McNeese State in 2016.

The 2017 Lamar team went 34-31 and finished second to Liberty (Virginia) in the National Invitational Softball Championship. The 2018 Cardinals, who played the last six games under Demi Laney in the interim, went 28-28 and 11-16 in the Southland, not qualifying for the conference tournament.

Honkofsky was Bruder’s first hire at Lamar. She played under Bruder at Morehead (Kentucky) State from 2007-08.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

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