Ex-instructor, college to discuss settlement

By MICHEAL ROMERO

A former Pima Community College instructor will meet with a college attorney Oct. 20 to discuss the instructor’s claim that he was denied due process.

David Katz, a former chemistry instructor, filed a federal lawsuit against the college in July 2015. A judge heard oral arguments last May.

Katz listed seven complaints against the college but the judge allowed just one count, “suspension without due process,” to move forward.

PCC officials declined requests for comment, saying the college does not discuss pending litigation.

Katz said via email the college offered a settlement within 24 hours of the judge’s order. He will meet with PCC attorney Georgia Staton on Oct. 20 to discuss terms.

He plans to pursue damages if the talks do not yield results in his favor.

The federal judge declined action on six other complaints alleging:

  • Suspension from teaching as retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights.
  • Seizure of private property.
  • Recession of approval of contract for the 2014-2015 year.
  • Failure to renew contract as retaliation for excise of First Amendment rights.
  • Failure to provide teaching contract for 2014-2015.
  • Failure to provide teaching contract for 2015-2016.

Pima’s Personnel Policy Statement for College Employees states instructors must be offered notice by March 1 if they are being considered for a contract renewal or denial.

Evidence presented in court said disciplinary action began against Katz in 2011. The action included a “Notice of Fact Finding Meeting” to discuss allegations of unprofessional conduct.

In 2013, a complaint by Science Lab Supervisor Don Harp and a separate complaint alleged that Katz kept a bottle marked Thermite in the lab. OSHA regulations consider the pyrotechnic material to be a safety violation.

Katz explained his side of the situation and his contract was renewed for the 2013-2014 year.

In court documents, Katz maintains he was the victim of “retaliatory conduct” after sending a July 2013 email to Mary Kay Gilliland, the academic dean for science, technology engineering and mathematics.

He was put on “Notice of Investigatory Leave of Absence” for the communication, Katz writes on his website, katzvpcc.com, saying, “My college email was suspended and a kitchen sink of charges by the administration were added.”

He was placed on paid leave in September 2013 and was suspended without pay on Oct. 4, 2013.

The court ruled by summary judgment that Katz’ due process was denied because he did not receive notice by March 1, 2013.

Katz was placed back on paid leave after the October suspension, but the court found that PCC simply let time run out until the deadline for contract renewal.

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  1. Mr. Romero: Did Mr.David Katz have the support of the Pima Community College Education Association (PCCEA)?

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