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Penn State Pres. Bendapudi is at center of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Univ. of Louisville

 Neeli Bendapudi speaks on the day of her announcement as Penn State president.
Emily Reddy
Neeli Bendapudi speaks on the day of her announcement as Penn State president.

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former attorney at the University of Louisville alleges she was demoted and punished for reporting an assistant basketball coach for attempted extortion, and that she experienced pushback from then-President Neeli Bendapudi for doing so.

Amy Shoemaker, an associate general council for the University of Louisville and associate athletic director, alleges in the lawsuit that she was effectively “frozen out” of her job after she reported then-assistant basketball coach Dino Gaudio's efforts at extortion to police. That came after the men's head basketball coach, Chris Mack, recorded his conversation ending Gaudio's employment in March 2021.

The suit says Gaudio "threatens to expose alleged recruiting violation to the media," and demanded a year and half's salary. Mack reported the conversation to the athletic director and Shoemaker, and Shoemaker reported it to the University of Louisville Police Department.

Shoemaker’s suit says that in a phone call a few days later, Bendapudi’s chief of staff, Michael Wade Smith, told Shoemaker that she should not have reported the extortion attempt to police. The suit alleges that Smith said “decisions about what should and would be reported to (the University of Louisville Police Department) are up to the President." Smith is also at Penn State now.

The suit says in a later video conference call, Bendapudi berated Shoemaker for reporting the extortion. Shoemaker, the suit says, was excluded from certain phone calls and meetings and demoted. She now works at Miami University.

In an emailed statement, Bendapudi said: "My commitment to ethical conduct and treating people the right way has been unwavering throughout my career. The teams I have built at multiple institutions reflect these bedrock values. I have and will continue to lead with integrity and have complete confidence in my senior vice president and chief of staff to do the same."

The chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees Matt Schuyler said: "We would not comment on a University of Louisville lawsuit. The Board of Trustees has complete confidence in the leadership of President Bendapudi and senior vice president and chief of staff Michael Wade Smith."

A University of Louisville spokesman declined to comment, saying the university is aware of the lawsuit, but does not typically comment on pending litigation.

The assistant coach, Dino Gaudio, later pleaded guilty to a federal charge of attempted extortion and was sentenced last year to probation and a fine.

Copyright 2022 WPSU. To see more, visit WPSU.

Anne Danahy is a reporter at WPSU. She was a reporter for nearly 12 years at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, where she earned a number of awards for her coverage of issues including the impact of natural gas development on communities.