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College District Ends Suit by Hiring Former Trustee

Teddi J. Lorch is given the South County job she sought before filing an age-discrimination case in 1999.

March 09, 2001|JEFF GOTTLIEB | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The South Orange County Community College District has hired former board member Teddi J. Lorch as director of human resources, settling an age-discrimination complaint she had filed against the district.

The district's trustees discussed the matter in closed session Tuesday and agreed to the settlement by a 4-3 vote, with David B. Lang, Marcia Milchiker and Donald P. Wagner voting against it.

The district's news release announcing Lorch's appointment to the $72,171-a-year position, effective Monday, did not mention that it was part of a deal to settle the complaint she filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Lorch, 53, filed the complaint in 1999, saying she was denied the position of human resources director and other district jobs because of her age. Lorch was one of three finalists for the human resources job.

The job came open again when Sabrina Ruminer resigned last year.

The EEOC did not complete its investigation.

Lorch could not be reached for comment.

Acting Chancellor Richard A. Jones said negotiations with Lorch began in January.

"It must have been clear that in their [trustees' and lawyers'] judgment there was a good possibility we would lose more by fighting it than moving in the direction we did," Jones said.

At least two trustees, though, disagreed.

Lang said Thursday he thought the EEOC complaint was weak. "I think this is the wrong way to settle this kind of matter," he said. "She wasn't selected the first time around, and there ought to be an open process for this position, and it shouldn't just be handed to someone on a silver platter.

"There are some egregious conflicts of interest related to this appointment," he said, referring to Lorch's former role as a trustee. "I think she does have a close personal relationship with some members of the board. It certainly doesn't have the appearance of independence."

Wagner said the case could have been settled without giving Lorch the job.

Board President Nancy M. Padberg, who is an attorney, said she thought there was a risk of losing a lawsuit. "I believe it's important to try to work out problems and stay out of court as much as possible," she said.

Lorch was appointed to the board of trustees in 1993 to fill the term of Iris Swanson, who died. She was elected to a four-year term in 1994. She did not seek reelection.

Lorch has a master's degree in developmental psychology from Chapman University and a master's in industrial-organizational psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She was a part-time psychology instructor from 1974 to 1994 at Saddleback College, one of the district's two campuses.

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