PCC, former instructor reach settlement

By EDDIE CELAYA

 

Former chemistry instructor David Katz has been awarded nearly $150,000 after a judge ruled his due process was violated by Pima Community College and high-level administrators.

A settlement agreement lays out legal guidelines for both sides to follow and constitutes the “full settlement and discharge of all claims.”

Katz, who was fired by the college in 2013, was awarded $149,815. The settlement includes $100,000 as compensation for damages suffered and $49,815 for lost wages.

Administrators named in the lawsuit included Chancellor Lee Lambert, former West Campus President Louis Albert and former department chair Mary Kay Gilliland.

The Arizona School Risk Retention Trust will pay the reward on behalf of the defendants. The ASRRT, a nonprofit located in Phoenix, provides insurance to community colleges during litigation.

Pima spokeswoman Libby Howell said the settlement was not an admission of guilt.

“Note that this agreement does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing on Pima’s part or by any of the individuals named as defendants,” she said.

The settlement agreement uses similar language: “Nothing contained in this agreement shall be construed as an admission by defendants that they have violated any statute, law or regulation.”

Howell said both sides “often settle cases to avoid the expense and uncertainty of continued litigation.”

The settlement outlines additional stipulations. For example, each side is responsible for its own attorney’s fees.

The document also details a nondisparagement agreement that makes it difficult for either side to say much: “The parties agree that they will not make disparaging, denigrating or defamatory comments or statements to any third party.”

The agreement resembles a gag order, noting, “The parties specifically agree that they will not comment on the allegations contained in the lawsuit.”

Katz believes the ruling will positively affect current PCC instructors. To help with official discipline from the school, he offered a few suggestions:

“For any complaint procedure/meeting, bring a representative from your representative group,” he said. “If a representative is not available, reschedule the meeting.”

Katz also reminded instructors that due process is their right as a public employee.

“You have a right to be provided with a copy of the complaint,” he said. “That must be a written, detailed description of the complaint with appropriate documentation including names, time and date.”

Katz expects to remain in education.

“Currently, I’m looking for another teaching position to continue my research on integrating lecture and lab for the general chemistry course,” he said.

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