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Faculty Suit on Cal State's Hiring of Munitz Survives

September 03, 2006|From a Times Staff Writer

A teachers group has won a partial victory in its challenge to the secret hiring of ousted former J. Paul Getty Trust chief Barry Munitz by California State University trustees.

A judge on Friday rejected the trustees' request that the faculty lawsuit be thrown out of Los Angeles County Superior Court, and it will be pursued, according to John Travis, president of the California Faculty Assn.

The university has stated that Munitz had an enforceable right to return to the Cal State system.

Munitz was hired behind closed doors in February to teach and raise funds after resigning from the Getty amid an investigation into alleged misuse of charity funds. He is being paid $163,776 -- almost double the top salary of $85,000 for a Cal State professor with 20 years of teaching experience.

Munitz was chancellor of the Cal State system until he left to head the Getty nine years ago.

The faculty group challenged the Munitz appointment, alleging that it was not made in a meeting open to the public, as required by law.

"The whole way they make decisions and the kind of decisions they make reflect that they don't have an adequate understanding of their responsibility," Travis said.

Lillian Taiz, who heads the faculty group at Cal State L.A., said Munitz will teach a single class there for one quarter of the coming school year in the English literature department.

"Most of us -- normal people -- teach three classes in each of three quarters," Taiz said.

She said Munitz's "golden parachute" can't be justified by a school system that has experienced 20% in budget cutbacks in recent years, and for which student fees have jumped 76%.

"Is this an appropriate program for a public university that's struggling financially?" Taiz asked. "If you don't have these discussions openly, then who knows what's going on?"

A spokeswoman for the university system could not be reached. But in the past, Cal State officials have said the university was legally obligated to let Munitz return from what was characterized as a leave of absence. Faculty union leaders have questioned whether the university was required to rehire Munitz in a position called trustee professor.

Murray L. Galinson, chairman of the Cal State Board of Trustees, criticized union officials earlier this year for making "irresponsible" comments about the Munitz deal.

Superior Court Judge Robert H. O'Brien made the ruling. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 3.

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