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Former U of M Vice President accused of lies

The sworn testimony given by a former University of Memphis vice president conflicts with the events surrounding the campus murder of Tiger Football player Taylor Bradford.

During a university-run appeal hearing, the testimony was given by Bob Eoff, who served as vice president of communications, marketing and public relations at the U of M from 2007 to 2011. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if the U of M had unjustly terminated Curt Guenther, a former director of communications.

These types of hearings have no subpoena power — Eoff volunteered to testify against Guenther. Eoff voluntarily brought up during his testimony the handling of the Bradford murder in 2007 as evidence of Guenther’s alleged incompetency.

Eoff supervised and evaluated Guenther’s work while the two were at the U of M. According to University Legal Counsel Melanie Murry, Eoff’s former position at the U of M qualified him to testify on Guenther deficiencies as director of communications. Murry also presented Eoff as an expert in communicating with the media since he worked in television for nearly 40 years and was the general manager of WREG-TV for some time.

Eoff testified that Guenther did not “report up” important information, leaving Eoff “surprised” when important events happened on campus. He gave a few examples, one of which was about the Bradford murder, which occurred on a Sunday night, Sept. 30, 2007.

Eoff testified: “In the fall of my first year, there was a tragic murder on the campus. I found out about the murder by watching the ten o’clock news on Sunday night and seeing Curt Guenther in front of a television camera being interviewed about the murder. I never got a phone call — I’d been home all evening—cell phone on (and home) telephone on. No word at all from him.”

But, The Daily Helmsman contacted all four local news stations. There seems to be no record of Guenther appearing on television on the night Bradford was murdered.

“We went to the scene on the night of the 30th, but, the shooting happened around 10:15 p.m. Our newscast ends at 10:30 p.m. We didn’t get anything on the air the night of the 30th at all,” --Kim Wheeler, assignment desk manager at WATN-TV, Channel 24, Kim Wheeler.


WMC Action News 5 “did not run a story the night it (the campus murder) happened,” Samantha Davisdson, a producer with the staction, wrote in an email. “Our first reporting of the shooting happened during our (Monday) morning show on Oct. 1, 2007,” Davidson confirmed. “It does not appear Curt Guenther was interviewed for the story.”

WHBQ, Fox 13 News “didn't pick up the Taylor Bradford story until a day later,” explained Darcy Thomas, an anchor and reporter with the station.

“Also, Mr. Guenther was never interviewed for the story—as far as we can tell,” Thomas wrote in an email.

Because the shooting happened so late on a Sunday night could explain why these news station were unable to air anything on the night of Bradford's murder.

The assignment desk manager at WATN-TV, Channel 24, Kim Wheeler, said she has “searched our archives multiple times over the last few months for that very thing… nothing comes up with Curt on the night of Sept. 30, 2007.”

Wheeler even explained why it was unlikely that any footage of Guenther would have aired that night.

“We went to the scene on the night of the 30th, but, the shooting happened around 10:15 p.m. Our newscast ends at 10:30 p.m. We didn’t get anything on the air the night of the 30th at all,” Wheeler wrote in an email.

Only WREG News Channel 3 could not confirm when they reported on Bradford’s murder.

An official at WREG said, “Your request is one that ventures into a legal matter.” She said to contact the assignment editor and write a formal request via email.

Eoff had a long career with WREG. He was first hired as a camera man in 1969. He worked his way up to general manager. By 2004, Eoff was the president of the NYT Broadcast Media Group, which oversees WREG. He retired from that job and soon went to work for the U of M.

The WREG editor responded by saying the station switched systems in 2010 and was unable to locate the story.

It does not appear that Eoff misspoke. During his testimony, Eoff said he saw Guenther “on the 10 o’clock news” at the scene of the murder. He repeated this four times.

Even the U of M’s legal counsel questioned their witness’s version of the night. Billy Mueller, assistant to legal counsel, asked Eoff, “You saw it on the news — could it have been the morning news?”

“No,” Eoff said.

Next, Eoff testified that his phone was turned on the night of the Bradford murder. However, phone records The Daily Helmsman obtained through the Tennessee Open Records Law seem to contradict this statement.

In 2007, Eoff testified that he had a house phone and a cellphone given to him by the University for work. He swore that it was “constantly on—plugged in at night (and) on.”

According to Eoff, Guenther did not call him that night.

“I saw him on the 10 o’clock news,” Eoff testified. “I was scheduled to go to New York City the next morning on a flight that I canceled. I called him (Guenther) immediately…I called Linda Bonnin (Guenther’s supervisor) and she was shocked as well. I called him to find out why he had not called me. I don’t remember the exact time.”

No phone calls were made from or to Eoff’s cellphone between Thursday, Sept. 27, and Monday, Oct. 1, according Eoff’s Verizon Wireless phone records.

The first time Eoff made a call from his cell phone was on Monday, Oct. 1 at 5:23 a.m.—almost eight hours after Bradford was killed and five hours after Eoff allegedly saw the news cast. That could indicate Guenther did not try to call Eoff on Sunday night or could indicate Eoff’s cellphone was turned off.

A professor at the U of M testified, at the same hearing, that Eoff told her his phone was turned off the night of Bradford’s murder.

Candy Justice, assistant professor of journalism and general manager at The Daily Helmsman, testified that she ran into Eoff days after Bradford’s murder at a then Schnucks on Union. They spoke in the parking lot, and she said she asked Eoff about the Bradford incident.

Justice testified that she said to Eoff:

“Gee, I bet you had a rough night Sunday night because of the Taylor Bradford murder—I know we (at the newspaper) did.”

According to Justice, Eoff said, “Actually, I didn’t have a rough night because my cell phone was off, and I didn’t know about it (the murder) until the next morning.”

During the closing arguments of the hearing, Hite McLean, the lawyer for Guenther, accused Eoff of lying during his testimony and asked the hearing officer to consider that when she deliberated.

Melanie Murry, U of M’s legal counsel, denied the allegation. She also argued that the exact events of the campus murder had no bearing on the current case, which concerned Guenther’s employment.

“(Whether or not) Curt Guenther called Linda Bonnin or Bob Eoff on the night of the Taylor Bradford Murder is irrelevant,” Murry said.

The level of scrutiny Eoff’s statements will face is unknown right now.

Chief Administrative Law Judge for Tennessee Richard Collier would not comment directly on this case, but did say whoever swore in the witnesses might matter in a adminsitrative hearing like this--which opperates under the Tennesse's Uniformed Adminstraive Proceedures Act.

Hearing officer Jodi Wilson, a U of M law professor, swore in each of the witnesses. She was appointed hearing officer by the U of M. She is also in the process of seeking tenure at the University.

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