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Sex Harassment Case Cost Cal State $500,000

Court: Ex-employee now claims he was demoted at the Fullerton campus for helping his sister win the settlement, which was revealed by his lawsuit.

June 23, 2001|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A sexual harassment settlement that may be the largest of its kind ever paid by the California State University system has come to light in a related lawsuit filed last week.

The university paid close to $500,000 last year to settle the sexual harassment lawsuit brought by Cal State Fullerton employee Pamela Losco.

Now her brother David, the former personnel director for the campus, alleges in a lawsuit that he was demoted for helping his sister with her suit.

David Losco, 58, also claims in his lawsuit that the university retaliated against him for giving information alleging financial mismanagement to the state auditor and that university President Milton Gordon ordered him to destroy notes from his interviews with whistle-blowers. Gordon and other university officials declined comment on the latest lawsuit.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 14, 2001 Orange County Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 2 inches; 47 words Type of Material: Correction
Cal State--The affiliations of some people in an article in the California section June 23 were misidentified. Colleen Bentley-Adler is a California State University system spokeswoman. Attorneys who counseled Chancellor Charles Reed about a sexual harassment lawsuit are employed by the California State University system.

Pamela Losco's lawsuit was one of two sexual harassment cases filed against the campus and Charles B. Darke, the dentist who was director of the student health center. Those suits were settled in March 2000.

Pamela Losco, Darke's former administrative assistant, received $447,000. Her assistant, Debbie Melsheimer, received $100,000. Darke paid $1,000 of the settlements; the state paid the rest.

"It was big-problem money," Cal State Chancellor Charles B. Reed said, "and when you've got big problems, they cost big money."

Reed said attorneys told him Pamela Losco's lawsuit would have cost more money had it gone to trial.

Largest Cal State Settlement

Colleen Bentley-Adler, a spokeswoman for the Cal State system, said the Pamela Losco settlement was the largest anyone could remember the 23-campus university system paying in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Darke was demoted and forced into retirement, said Robert Palmer, vice president of student affairs. Darke did not return calls to his dental office in San Francisco or his home in Anaheim.

Karen Taillon, lawyer for both Loscos, said David did not work on his sister's case for Cal State Fullerton because of the potential conflict of interest. "Notwithstanding his expression of that conflict," Taillon said, "blame was clearly placed upon him for the outcome of his sister's litigation."

The sexual harassment lawsuits spelled out allegations of nearly a decade of unwanted groping, touching, exposure and provocative comments by Darke. Pamela Losco's lawsuit provided a list of administrators whom she said she had complained to with no results.

Palmer, the vice president of student affairs, said that the university investigated when Pamela Losco made a formal complaint and that her problem was not ignored. "We felt we handled it properly," he said.

Palmer said no one other than Darke was disciplined, and no new training on dealing with sexual harassment was implemented.

Asked if he thought there should have been additional training, Reed replied, "I hope so."

Pamela Losco, 53, has retired. Melsheimer, 42, remains employed at Cal State Fullerton.

Series of Problems for Administration

The sexual harassment settlements and David Losco's lawsuit are the latest in a series of problems to hit the Fullerton school's administration in recent years.

Three employees were disciplined in March for spending more than $600 of university funds on wedding and baby showers. An audit also found that an administrative department spent at least $4,700 on such items as a retirement dinner, a donation to a student association conference and sympathy flowers.

In a separate incident in December 1999, a report from the state auditor's office said Cal State Fullerton officials misused about $1 million, spending scholarship money on meals and entertainment, and ignored hiring and contracting procedures to give work to friends.

In his lawsuit, David Losco says he helped whistle-blowers at the school in the December 1999 incident and in other cases from 1994 to 1999, and that he passed information to the state auditor.

He says he took extensive notes of his conversations with the whistle-blowers and made a summary for Gordon.

"Thereafter, Losco was instructed by defendant Gordon to destroy all evidence of his notes, including all computer or other records of the notes, and any summaries made from the notes," according to the lawsuit. "Such instructions constituted threats and coercion against Losco, and direct interference with the audits."

25-Year Career at Cal State Fullerton

David Losco worked at Cal State Fullerton for 25 years, the last 2 1/2 as executive director of human resources.

Two months after the December 1999 audit came out, according to the lawsuit, officials "blamed Losco for the outcome of the bureau's investigation and the critical findings, and Losco was verbally criticized, harassed and intimidated in front of his peers and others."

The lawsuit says the harassment continued, and Losco was transferred in April 2000 to the new position of director of university risk management, which he had to develop. The lawsuit says Losco was told there was no office for him and no resources.

He has been on a combination of medical leave, sick leave and vacation since then.

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