Leadie M. Clark, the first black woman to head a community college district in California, has settled her $20-million discrimination suit against the North Orange County Community College District, college officials said Wednesday.
The out-of-court settlement gives $125,000 to Clark, who served as the district's chancellor from 1977 to 1986. It was approved Oct. 8 by U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall in Los Angeles, district spokeswoman Donna Hatchett said.
The suit by Clark, 62, of Fullerton, said the district, which governs Fullerton and Cypress colleges and their 30,500 students, had engaged in race, sex and age discrimination. She also alleged that the district had wrongfully terminated her contract and that district trustee Chris Loumakis had libeled her by criticizing her management style.
The dispute arose in April, 1985, when the board of trustees voted not to renew Clark's contract, which was not due to expire for another 14 months. The board did not give a reason for its decision.
Three months later, Clark filed her suit. The board then placed her on a paid leave of absence until her contract, which called on her to be paid $70,500 a year, expired in June, 1986.
When the board made this decision in July, 1985, trustee Loumakis said the board had placed Clark on administrative leave because the majority had concluded that it would have difficulty working with Clark because of her suit against the district. He also said he had voted earlier not to renew her contract because he disagreed with her leadership style.
Clark subsequently amended her lawsuit and claimed that Loumakis had libeled her by criticizing her management abilities.
During the year that Clark was on her paid leave of absence, she received $70,500 in salary, although she did no work for the district, her attorney, Jay Gould, acknowledged Wednesday. "She wanted to continue working, but the district would not let her," Gould said.
"So, during that year, she investigated the possibility of finding a job that was similar to the one she had held as chancellor. But these kinds of jobs don't come about every day. And she has not been able to find a position like that. . . .
"But she continues to look into job possibilities consistent with her education and talents, not just in California, but also in various states, when she learns of openings."
Clark, who remains unemployed, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Gould said she is active as a volunteer in community activities.
Loumakis also could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Gould said Clark accepted the settlement rather than go to trial because it was at least a year away, and a trial would have been costly.
Gould said that while the $125,000 settlement was more than Clark's annual salary, it represented what she would have earned had she continued to be paid and had invested her salary. Her attorney said he would receive a third of her settlement.
James S. Kellerman, who succeeded Clark as chancellor, said the district had agreed to the settlement because "we wanted to bring this to an end. It has been dragging on for over two years. . . . The terms seemed reasonable."
All but $5,000 of the settlement will be paid by the district's insurance company, Kellerman said. He said the remainder would come from "reserves" maintained by the district to cover such expenses.