Commentary on the Firing of Ted Martinez
January 6, 2006
By Beth Smith
(San Diego)... Martinez is a strong advocate for Grossmont College –
always has been and probably always will be. He continued to choose
championing for the students, programs and community that is
Grossmont College, and unfortunately, this stance led to a conflict
between him and Suarez.
He did exactly what every college president is expected to do – bring to the
attention of the district administration and board the problems and
inequities facing Grossmont College with the intent to resolve the issues as
soon as possible. However, it appears that Suarez did not want him to
do the job he was hired to do...
This relationship became especially strained in early 2004.
The first, a seemingly minor accounting error, identified district expenses
that were being charged to the college... The dollar amount varied
between $200,000 to $300,000 per year, a sizeable amount that could
have been redirected to hiring much needed faculty and staff. Suarez
made no attempt to absorb the charges back into the district
budget, offered no explanation for why the charges were there,
and disgustingly, offered no apology to the college for years of
“stealing” funds away from educational programs...
The second issue is much more problematic... It is the allocation and
spending of the capital construction bond revenue, locally known as Prop
R, approximately $207 million dollars. East County voters passed the bond
that was advertised as “R for repair,” citing the aging Grossmont campus
and the need for some new construction within the district. When the
district announced the split of the funds...Not only did the split emphasize
new construction at the other campus in the district, but it nearly eliminated
all repair funds from the budget for the college. Martinez again went to bat
for the college requesting more of the split and a greater portion to repair
the 40+ year old campus. All his requests were denied and the college has
been suffering the results of the split since...
The Grossmont Faculty challenged the processes used by the district to
determine the Prop R split. The chancellor ... violated the faculty’s legal
right to participate in the development of budget and planning processes...
The Academic Senate voted no confidence in Suarez in March 2005...
The board response to the vote of no confidence in Suarez was
predictable, but the vitriol was not. With comments like “Bring it on” and a
patronizing “You’re not happy?” litany, the board supported Suarez,
mocked the faculty concerns, and left Martinez in the middle... Martinez
stressed problem solving while Suarez sought to gain power. Martinez was
left in a pickle.
In June, the board voted to extend the contracts, out of the normal
evaluation cycle, to the chancellor, vice chancel...Not Martinez.
...Not once did the board acknowledge the comments of the speakers or
the work of Martinez, but instead the board showed a disappointing display
of irreverence and disrespect for the speakers and Martinez.
... on December 23, 2005, two days before Christmas, and an official day
of closure for the college. The board called a special closed meeting at 4:
00 scheduled for that day. The agenda looked innocent enough, but the
campus soon learned that the board would take action against Martinez.
Education Code clearly states the processes and timelines for dealing with
contracts of administrators, and the board “just recently learned” that it
had to take action six months prior to the end of Martinez’ contract in June
2006. In a closed session, the board voted unanimously to terminate his
contract and not renew it...
On the other hand, the Cuyamaca College president has faced questions
by this newspaper about the integrity of its noncredit program where
Alzheimer’s patients are enrolled as students in college courses; operates
a college that has been in the “red” for 27 years and the subsidy required
to sustain the college increases each year; and credit enrollment there
has been declining.
Did the board fire the right president?...
Beth Smith is Academic Senate President. Grossmont College.
Bill for SDSU whistle-blower case: $1.87 million
Attorney for ousted football strength coach says he offered to settle for no money
By Brent Schrotenboer
February 14, 2011
The California State University System rang up $1.87 million in legal bills to fight a
whistle-blower lawsuit filed by a former San Diego State football strength coach in 2004.
The system last month decided to end the case by agreeing to pay the coach, David
Ohton, a $2.7 million settlement. That means the total cost of the case for the CSU was
$4.57 million — an expense that comes amid state budget cuts and dwindling resources for
Officials say the costs were necessary to fight a case that involved an unsettled area of law
and a flurry of depositions called early on by Ohton.
Ohton’s attorney said he initially offered to settle the case for an apology and restoration of
his coaching assignment — and no money — and was told no.
Marlene Jones, in-house counsel for the university system, said $1.35 million of the $4.57
million will be paid from a self-insured “risk pool,” which comes from taxpayer money. The
rest, she said, would be paid by insurance. She said the legal department is frugal and
cautious about expenses after hiring outside firms.
Some still questioned how the case was handled.
“They spent $1.9 million to defend it and ended up worse off than they were in the
beginning,” said Dale Larabee, an attorney who followed the case but was not involved in it.
“Especially when it’s taxpayer money, you would think they would use a little bit more rational
sense to resolve this rather than turning it into a matter of principle.”
Four outside firms were used for the case, one of which — Gordon & Rees — billed the
university $911,810 from 2004 to 2010.
Ohton filed suit in 2004, claiming he was removed as football strength coach in 2003 after
assisting with a CSU audit that found mismanagement in SDSU’s athletic department. He was
given lower-profile assignments, but never fired, and he will leave SDSU employment as part
of the settlement.
The audit led to the ouster of Athletic Director Rick Bay and three other athletics employees.
Ohton said he was illegally retaliated against and ostracized by head football coach Tom
Ohton filed suit under the California Whistle-blower Protection Act. Jones, who started
overseeing the case in 2007, said that it dragged on largely because of the relative lack of
legal precedent under that law.
“The office monitors (expenses) very carefully,” Jones said. “What you are seeing here is
that there was new law being made. I don’t think there were any unnecessary billings or
Jones said the Whistle-blower Protection Act was “ambiguously drafted,” which led to
disagreements among the courts.
Two different San Diego Superior Court judges threw out the case, in 2005 and 2008, only
to see it reinstated on appeal. That process added several years to the case and required
specialized attorneys to handle it, Jones said.
At one point, the CSU unsuccessfully petitioned the state Supreme Court to review the case.
To make its case with the Supreme Court, the CSU hired a specialized firm, Horvitz & Levy,
which billed $123,416 in 2010.
Jones said the system decided to make the payoff to Ohton to avoid an upcoming trial and
more expensive appeals after that. Ohton’s attorney, Dennis Schoville, said CSU could have
ended up paying nothing if it had settled early.
“I fault the decision-makers within the CSU in-house legal department because before this
case ever proceeded into litigation, I voluntarily sat down with coach Ohton (and other CSU
and SDSU officials),” Schoville said. “All coach Ohton requested was that he be given a
simple apology from Craft, indicating they had reconciled their differences, that they were
going to move forward for the betterment of student athletes and that he be reinstated as
director of strength and conditioning and continue as strength coach for football. Within a
few days, we were advised by CSU that those terms were not acceptable.”
Jones said the case was not settled earlier because twice it appeared that the CSU was on
the verge of victory over Ohton by having the case thrown out of Superior Court. Instead,
the Court of Appeal reversed those decisions.
“I think it was in both parties interest to end this litigation that had gone on for an extremely
long time,” Jones said.
Attorneys for Gordon & Rees, which worked on the case longer than the other three firms
involved, didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Whistle-blowers in education
San Diego Reader
Bill for SDSU/ David Ohton
whistle-blower case: $1.87
Gordon & Rees
* 2004: $200,741.66
* 2005: $236,898.46
* 2006: $65,386.80
* 2007: $129,501.57
* 2008: $182,409.90
* 2009: $73,577.35
* 2010: $23,294.03
* Total: $911,809.77
Kirby Noonan Lance & Hoge
* 2010: $293,530.50
* 2011: $55,887.24
* Total: $350,417.74
Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek
* 2004: $231,577.51
* 2005: $233,922.32
* 2006: $176.31
* Total: $465,676.14
Horvitz & Levy
* 2010: $123,415.86
Vendors such as court
* 2004: $14,773.87
* 2005: $4,208.75
* 2006: $996.60
* Total: $19,979.22
Source: CSU billing summary
|San Diego Education Report