Elena Zagustin, the Huntington Harbour resident whose messy house outraged neighbors and was ordered sold by a judge, has been fired from her teaching job at Cal State Long Beach after going into hiding, apparently to avoid a jail sentence.
Zagustin, 62, was dismissed because she failed to appear for class when the semester began Aug. 30, university spokeswoman Toni Beron said.
Attorney Anthony Cosio, who represented Zagustin in her failed effort to keep her house, said she may have stopped going to work to avoid serving a jail sentence that was supposed to begin Sept. 8. A judge ordered her to spend 30 days in Orange County Jail for keeping a filthy house and violating health and safety laws.
Zagustin's home was auctioned off for $301,500 last month, ending a decade of lawsuits by neighbors and Huntington Beach authorities to force her to clean up her house.
The case attracted nationwide attention as Zagustin and her neighbors disputed her right to maintain a home where trash and rotting vegetables were strewn about, maggots teemed in the oven and toilets had long since backed up.
Zagustin failed to surrender to jail authorities and missed another court appearance related to a probation violation. A warrant has been issued for her arrest.
"I haven't spoken to her since her last court appearance in June," Cosio said. "She's absconded, and a judge has ordered me to inform the court if I have any contact with her. I have no idea where she is."
Cosio said he did not know until Tuesday that Zagustin had been fired by university officials but added he was not surprised.
"I'm sure if she was in class she'd be arrested. It's really unfortunate that she was ordered to jail. She felt that as a matter of principle she shouldn't have to do any jail time. She's already lost her house. She decided to ignore the court order [to go to jail]," said Cosio.
Beron said that Cal State Long Beach officials also do not know Zagustin's whereabouts. Letters advising Zagustin of her termination were sent to "multiple places," but she never responded, said Beron.
Zagustin, who was tenured and had taught at the school since 1967, was to teach four civil engineering classes, Beron said.
"When Dr. Zagustin didn't show up for work for five consecutive days, we sent her a letter telling her that the university considered her to have resigned," Beron said. The letter was mailed Sept. 8, the same day that Zagustin was supposed to start her jail sentence, Beron said.
The university mailed a second letter Sept. 21 advising Zagustin of her right to appeal, but it, too, was ignored, said Beron.
"Her classes have been covered by other professors, so students haven't been impacted at all," she said.