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Professor's Plea Poses a Dilemma for College Brass

June 01, 1988|RON RUSSELL | Times Staff Writer

"I'd say we met for about two hours a month on average," said Fred Brugger, who was in Mintz's business law course last year. "People took his classes for easy A's. I did it because I was carrying a full load and also taking paralegal courses at another school on the side, and I needed the break. But I didn't learn anything."

Rebecca Miranda, another student, said she received an A from Mintz last year but was so disappointed "by his not being there" that she changed her major to avoid having to take a follow-up course from him.

"We were supposed to meet for an hour three days a week," she said. "It was a 9 o'clock class and he'd show up at 9:30 or 9:45, and a lot of times he wouldn't show up at all. I didn't get anything out of it."

Mintz has repeatedly denied that he has had a problem with absences, saying he has never had a formal complaint lodged against him.

Although his recent problems have attracted notoriety on campus, Mintz is no stranger to controversy, according to current and former faculty members and administrators.

Several of the faculty picketed in protest after Mintz was appointed coordinator of student services in 1972, alleging that the appointment was a political payoff for what they claimed was his role in the ouster of a former president of the college.

Longtime faculty members familiar with Mintz said he has frequently been accused of not attending his classes.

"He's the kind of person who makes it a practice to cultivate the right people, and that's what's saved him over the years," one administrator said.

In a recent interview, Mintz said some of the criticism stems from his role as "a faculty politician."

"You make friends and you make enemies," Mintz said. "You kind of expect the people who are your enemies to exaggerate things."

Mintz, who has said that he is involved in a dozen businesses and that he is an officer of seven corporations, has had his share of business problems too.

One of his companies bought radio time so he could host of a program called "The Law and You" on KIEV-AM. The show won an award from the California Bar Assn. in 1980 but was canceled after station officials accused Mintz of refusing to pay for $18,000 worth of air time.

To satisfy the debt, a collection agency obtained a court order to attach Mintz's salary at the college, as well as to confiscate his 1979 Cadillac. But the car could not be found and the state Franchise Tax Board had already claimed priority in attaching his salary for unpaid taxes.

The radio show attracted renewed attention from his campus detractors recently after the student newspaper published a photo of a document showing that his Hal Mintz Productions, which produced the radio program, listed his campus office as its business location in violation of college policy.

Mintz, who claimed that the document was stolen from his office in an effort to discredit him, denied that he ever used the office for business purposes.

In 1981, Mintz was sued by investors in California Special Events Inc., a company he set up to organize swap meets in the Los Angeles area.

According to Superior Court records, a $29,000 lien was later placed against a San Bernardino property owned by Mintz to settle a claim by a lawyer that he broke an agreement to return the lawyer's investment within a year. In addition, a San Fernando Valley couple won a $14,000 judgment against Mintz.

Two years ago, he was on the losing end of another lawsuit, which accused him of failing to honor a building lease in West Hollywood. A spokesman for a Delaware company that won an $8,300 judgment against the professor said the company was able to collect "about half" of what it was owed by attaching his salary.

But it wasn't until last year, when West Hollywood officials revoked the license of another of his enterprises, 20th Century Travel Advisors Inc., doing business as the Beverly Hills Massage Parlor, that Mintz's most serious problems began.

Although he claimed to operate the "cleanest massage parlor in California," Sheriff's Department vice officers painted a different picture.

They described massage booths located behind triple-locked doors, some equipped with video equipment showing X-rated movies and attended by scantily clad women whose income depended on sexual favors.

Investigators said records seized at the professor's home revealed a scheme in which patrons who paid as much as $165 for the women's services were able to disguise credit card purchases to make it look as if they had used another Mintz business that existed only on paper: American Oriental Limousine Service.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Fox said the evidence demonstrated that Mintz was intimately involved in maintaining the massage parlor for prostitution purposes, including providing prostitutes with assurances of legal counsel and bail bondsmen if needed.

These allegations have done nothing to quell criticism that the college district has been slow to act against the man who heads the largest department on campus, making the college a laughingstock.

"We're talking about someone who is supposed to be a professor of business law," said Safford Chamberlain, an English professor. "I can just imagine the kind of feeling he is able to engender when he comes to the chapter on ethics."

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