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CSUF Gave Raise Before Suspension

Workplace: An employee cited for dishonesty in getting the university to pay for private parties also was made a manager.

July 16, 2001|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

While they were moving to suspend her, Cal State Fullerton officials gave a substantial raise and management status to an employee who had been cited for "dishonesty" for her role in having the university pay for personal baby and wedding showers.

The university notified Linda Cambron of her raise six days before she began her three-day suspension without pay in mid-May.

A Cal State Fullerton investigation in February found that about $800 spent on the showers for fellow employees was "deliberately misrepresented" as training sessions so the university would pay for them.

Cambron, associate director, enrollment management/university outreach, signed the two check requests for the party goods and food for the showers. She was the highest ranking of three employees implicated in the misuse of money this year. The two other employees received 30-day suspensions without pay.

Cambron declined to comment.

Robert Palmer, vice president for student affairs, said the change in Cambron's status came after a review of her responsibilities.

"Frankly, I really don't see a relationship where a person has been rewarded for something," he said.

University officials insisted Cambron was not promoted, but that her job was reclassified to reflect duties she already had been performing.

"I don't think we could deny her the reclassification," Palmer said.

Janet McNeill, Cal State Fullerton's associate vice president for communications and marketing, downplayed Cambron's role in spending the money for showers. She said the other two women had falsified information, that they had told Cambron a supervisor had OKd the money and Cambron just signed off on it.

"[Cambron] signed the papers and so the finding is that perhaps she didn't use the best judgment or due care in signing," McNeill said. "Sometimes you don't read everything that comes across your desk or you don't ask questions about everything or ask for all the supporting documents."

The comment angered Darlene Trostad, who lost 30 days' pay for her role in the showers. "If a person who is signing is not responsible, who the heck is responsible?" she said. "The buck's got to stop somewhere, and I don't think it's fair that it stops down the totem pole. I just don't get the justice in that at all."

Trostad bought the food and paper goods for the parties, which were held in honor of fellow Cal State Fullerton employees. A third employee, Vina Barcelo, prepared the vouchers that Cambron signed and also was suspended for 30 days.

Christine McCarthy, Southern California vice president of the Academic Professionals of California, Unit 4, which represented Cambron until her move into management, said Cambron's suspension was the only one she could recall in her five years with the union.

Cambron's notice of suspension--dated March 9, 2001, and signed by university President Milton A. Gordon--says her punishment was the result of "dishonesty and failure or refusal to perform the normal and reasonable duties of the position."

In addition, Cambron "acknowledged that she knew the funds were to be used for showers rather than for training when she signed the advanced check requests." The notice said that according to Cambron, "Support staff members assured her that the expenditures were allowable and had been verbally authorized by her supervisor and so she signed both check requests."

Gordon could not be reached for comment.

Cambron was suspended May 14 to 16.

By that time she already had been informed of her raise, which was outlined in a May 8 letter, just before she started her suspension.

University records are unclear as to the amount of the wage increase. The May 8 letter says her pay is increasing from $4,239 to $4,451 a month, a 5% raise to $53,412. However, two Cal State Fullerton spokeswomen said personnel records show that Cambron was earning $4,705 a month, which would be an 11% raise to $56,460 a year. They could not explain the discrepancy.

The raise was retroactive to Oct. 1, 2000, according to the notice Cambron received, a copy of which The Times obtained. McCarthy said that was when the study on the job change began.

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