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College Battle Won, but War Continues

Education: Professor wins his fourth lawsuit involving South Orange County Community College District.

March 02, 2000|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The score: Philosophy professor Roy Bauer 4, South Orange County Community College District and administrators 0.

But the acrimony continues.

In this saga of squabbling educators, Bauer won his fourth court decision against his college district opponents when an Orange County Superior Court judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit brought by Irvine Valley College President Raghu Mathur. Mathur claimed the professor had violated his privacy by publishing documents from the president's personnel file in his newsletter.

A judge already has ordered the district to pay Bauer $126,000 in attorney's fees after ruling that Chancellor Cedric Sampson acted unconstitutionally when he reprimanded Bauer for criticizing the administration in his newsletter. Bauer said he will ask the court to award him attorney's fees for the latest case.

Bauer won out over the district on two other occasions when he accused officials of violating state open meetings laws.

The question now is how long this intramural fighting will last.

"It doesn't end until we remove the board majority which supports people like Raghu Mathur and other opponents of free speech," Bauer said.

Replied Sampson: "We have a group of people who do not respect the authority of the board of trustees and are trying to reverse the direction the board is taking, and they find some solace with the courts."

The latest court action centers on the newsletter titled SOCCD Dissent and circulated by Bauer, a leading Mathur critic. In his suit, filed in January, Mathur charged that Bauer published confidential documents from Mathur's personnel file about his dealings with a student. Bauer's attorney, Carol Sobel, said the documents show that Mathur violated federal privacy laws when he gave the student's transcript to the faculty Senate, for which he was reprimanded.

The suit claimed former Irvine Valley vice president Terry Burgess had friends pull the confidential memos from Mathur's file and that he gave the documents to Bauer.

Sobel said Judge Michael Brennan threw out the lawsuit under a state law that prohibits suits meant to stifle free speech.

Mathur was being deposed in another lawsuit Wednesday and was not available for comment. In that suit, Professor Jeff Kaufman, another Mathur critic, alleges that Mathur disciplined him unfairly to deny him tenure.

Mathur's attorney, Michael Corfield, said he and his client are deciding whether to appeal.

Burgess, now president of Chabot Community College in Hayward, said he will ask the judge to dismiss the case against him March 14. He called the suit "preposterous. I'm alleged to have purloined these confidential personal documents, and there's not a shred of evidence."

Two years ago, nearly three-fourths of the faculty voted no confidence in Mathur.

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