Saturday, April 28, 2007

Discrimination trial: OPENING STATEMENTS

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BUSYNESS PREVENTED ME FROM PROVIDING a full report of the first day of the RAGHU MATHUR discrimination trial, including the important “opening statements.” Belatedly, I provide that report below:

The U.S. Courthouse on Spring Street is beautiful and old, built during the Depression. I always enjoy visiting that fine old building.

Naturally, to enter the building, you need to submit to the usual airport-style security screening. These days, you can usually manage to get past the gate without taking off your belt and shoes!

Judge A. Howard Matz’s courtroom is impressive, about 60’ by 60’, with an audience gallery occupying the back one third or so. (I’d show you a picture, but photography is forbidden.)

Jury selection:

Tuesday’s jury selection process was interesting—it’s always fun guessing which side is gonna nix which potential juror. The jury pool was diverse: various backgrounds, ethnicities, etc. The film/TV industry was well represented, but so was auto repair and studentry. Most prospective jurors seemed reasonable, intelligent.

Eventually, the jury was whittled down to about eight people, and Judge Matz briefly lectured them about their task. The Plaintiff, he said, has the burden of proof, but “proving” her claim in this trial doesn’t mean establishing it “beyond a reasonable doubt.” For this case, he said, the standard is the “preponderance of the evidence.” That is, explained Matz, the claim made against the defendant must be more probably true than not true.”

Opening statements:


FOR THE PLAINTIFF:

Opening statements commenced at about 1:50 on Tuesday. Carol Sobel, Cely Mora’s attorney, explained that Mora was making two claims: (1) that she was discriminated against—in the dean hire of Spring ’01—because she is a Latina; and (2) Mora and others who worked under Dean Poindexter were allowed by Mathur to suffer a hostile work environment.

Sobel explained that Poindexter’s lack of qualifications for the job was clear from the very beginning, a fact understood by most members of the hiring committee (whose role it was to winnow the field of applicants and make recommendations to the college President). While Mora had long been an Athletic Director at the college and had served as acting Dean for a year, Poindexter had no managerial experience at all; he was in fact an athletic trainer.

When Mora didn’t get the job, she returned to the classroom and took steps to leave room for the new dean to establish himself. Meanwhile, Poindexter’s first action was to take Mora’s office, despite its being a small faculty office that was distant from his assistant’s desk.

Very soon, other disturbing incidents began to occur. Poindexter, a large man, would fly into rages and behave in a menacing manner. He did this only with the women. Department chair Ted W went to IVC President Mathur to express concerns on behalf of the women, but Mathur took no action. Meanwhile, the more the women complained about Poindexter’s behavior, the worse his behavior became.

During the Spring of ’02, a particularly disturbing incident occurred; Poindexter screamed at and menaced a secretary—an event Ted W witnessed himself. The women grew increasingly fearful of Poindexter, and, soon, female PE instructors met with Poindexter only when accompanied by a male colleague.

Poindexter targeted the women of his School in other ways, giving them bad schedules and classes, delaying their pay, etc. The men were given what they wanted.

In April of ’02, after numerous informal complaints, six employees filed a formal “harassment” complaint against Poindexter.

Meanwhile, John Lowe, an instructor who had served on the hiring committee, began to do some digging into the new dean’s background. He discovered disturbing facts about Poindexter that were concealed during the dean search. When he brought the information to the attention of administrators, who acknowledged it, nothing was done.

Later, faculty discovered that Mathur had given Poindexter a “to do” list. But none of the tasks on the list concerned the most important issue, the safety issue.

Eventually, an investigation was launched, but it was not completed until a year after problems had been brought to Mathur’s attention. During that whole time, Poindexter was not removed from the workplace.

The investigation report of October, 2002, concluded that Poindexter did not have the skills to be dean, but that fact was already manifest during the search process in the Spring of ’01.

But if Poindexter was incompetent, why was he only incompetent in his dealings with the women? Even the men acknowledged that Poindexter’s behavioral issues only concerned the women.


FOR THE DEFENDANT:

Dennis Walsh presented the statement for the defense. He urged the jury to wait until all of the evidence was presented before they formed a judgment. There are, he said, two separate issues: (1) whether or not Cely Mora was discriminated against because of her race and (2) whether Mathur responded to the existence of a hostile work environment. According to Walsh, if Ms. Mora has a complaint, it is with Poindexter, not with Mathur.

This suit is “something that is personal,” he said.

According to Walsh, Mathur had very little involvement in the process that led to Poindexter’s hire in the Spring of 2001. The hiring committee’s job was to produce at least three qualified candidates for him to interview and choose among.

Walsh emphasized that, in the elaborate hiring process, the three candidates sent up to the President of the College (Mathur) were understood to be qualified and on an “equal footing.”

Mathur interviewed the three candidates, including Mora and Poindexter, and he “looked at the big picture stuff.” That (evidently) is why he favored Poindexter over Mora.

Walsh explained who Mathur is. He came to these shores from India and worked his way up to his current high position as Chancellor of the district.

When Mathur interviewed the three candidates, Mora, though a good candidate, didn’t impress. There was no discriminatory intent here.

Walsh further explained that, before the Board of Trustees voted to give Poindexter the job (based on Mathur’s recommendation), they heard from members of the committee and others who objected to Mathur’s selection. They heard all the arguments. Even so, they voted to give Poindexter the job.

Walsh acknowledged that Dean Poindexter “had some problems.” In part, he experienced problems because of faculty, including some members of the committee, said Walsh.

According to Walsh, Mathur and the district responded appropriately to the complaints about Poindexter, for the district launched an investigation. Mathur had nothing to do with that. The “female investigator” eventually filed a report that found no reason to conclude that Poindexter’s behavior re the complaining women was “based on their gender.”

Walsh noted that some of the people who later complained about Poindexter actually recommended him during the hiring process.

Walsh closed by asserting that, when all the facts are laid out, it will be clear that the focus of the “Poindexter” problem was not Mathur, but Poindexter.

Mathur is being sued because this is “personal,” said Walsh.

NOTES:

1. Why had faculty members of the hiring committee forwarded Poindexter’s name to the President for interview? Walsh failed to mention a motivation that has become clear during subsequent testimony. Faculty members of the hiring committee (there were administrators as well) were aware that, were they to fail to send up three applicants (instead of, say, just Mora), Mathur would “shut down” the process, forcing it to start from scratch. Some members of the committee naively supposed that Mathur would do the “right thing” and hire the plainly most qualified candidate: Mora.

2. About Mathur’s impressive rise to prominence. Walsh failed to mention the corruption, unseemly conduct, and illegality that attended that saga. Mathur's initial rise to administration occurred during a time in which the then-corrupt faculty union was in league with the "Board Majority" to reorganize the entire district and settle scores. See Dissent archives.

3. Why did the Board of Trustees go along with Mathur’s recommendation to hire Poindexter? Walsh failed to mention that the Board of Trustees had already had a long history of defending their man Mathur against faculty objections and charges of unprofessionalism. Indeed, the faculty had voted “no confidence” in Mathur overwhelmingly, but still the board supported Mathur. Eventually, Mathur was selected as Chancellor; a year later, he endured a 94% vote of “no confidence” among faculty. The board responded by giving Mathur a raise. He now makes about $300,000 a year.

To some members of the board, that faculty object to a Mathurian decision is ipso facto a reason to support it.

4. Can we trust Human Resources’ investigation of Poindexter? Walsh failed to mention that the head of Human Resources during the time of the Poindexter matter had been a member of the Board of Trustees. Indeed, she had been a member of the notoriously law-breaking board that illegally promoted Mathur to administration (once as interim President of IVC, and a second time, again illegally, as permanent president of IVC) back in 1997. See College board gives former board member district [HR] job. (3/8/01)

See also Former trustee only candidate for district [HR] job (2/22/01):
…Lorch, a former part-time instructor and a former board member, has supporters and detractors from a long-time history with the district.

Her supporters say she was a popular teacher and was a top contender for the personnel position. Her detractors say Lorch, as a trustee, had a hostile relationship with faculty members.

…During her time on the board, Lorch was part of a four-member majority that appointed Irvine Valley College president Raghu Mathur….

38 comments:

  1. Go Cely!

    Poindester - just another example of Raghu's failures - a dangerous one at that.

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  2. uh - so just how much has the district paid out just so Raghu could avoiding hiring a qualified female?

    Someone should do the math (not my discipline)and add up the costs associated with the Poindexter fiasco (didn't he get paid to go away?), plus lawyers' fees, etc.


    Is this a good use of the taxpayers' money just so Raghu could continue to surround himself with incompetents who couldn't show him up?

    Disgusting. How does this kind of leadership serve stduents and community? It serves itself and that's about it.

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  3. Anyone know where Poindexter is now?

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  4. Faculty members on the selection committee made a BIG mistake when they sent Poindexter's name forward to Raghu. Long experience has taught me that it's a terrible idea to hope that the President won't choose an candidate the committee doesn't want. If there are only x good candidates, then members of the selection committee should send only x names to the President. If s/he wants to start the whole process over again, then so be it (and good luck finding faculty members to sit on the new committee.

    Live and learn.

    --100 miles down the road

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  5. A reliable source informs that Poindexter now works as an investigator for Owen Kreza's private security firm.

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  6. 100 miles -

    You're right -- but it's a tough call after weeks invested in the process and the spectre of starting over looming.

    I've sat on committees where we have sent forward only those qualified but because Raghu demanded one or two more, the whole process was shut down - once never to open again.

    The pressure is to send the number he wants - even if that means forwarding those unqualified.

    So many suffer in this - the students who are denied good instructors, the faculty who lack colleagues, the staff who find themselves shouldering more work in the interim -- and especially those candidates who entered the process in good faith only to find themselves punished by a policy that serves the egos of the president and chancellor at the expense of the health of the institution.

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  7. yes, I heard that too - Poindexter is working for Kreza who was contracted to provide continued security for Mathur - you know, Raghu still gets that monthly security stipend to protect him from the likes of us.

    Does any other chancellor get a monthly security stipend to protect himself or herself from faculty and staff?

    Just wondering.

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  8. That's right - they've mucked up the hiring policy so much that committees spend a great deal of time trying to figure out how to please the policy and the president - not choose the best candidate(s).

    It's been a disaster.

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  9. Exactly.

    Committees don't look for the best candidate anymore, confident that the process works but form the beginning they look for three they can forward no matter what - this changes the whole dynamic.

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  10. How can this kind of stuff go on for years in your district with no accountability?

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  11. I believe it was done like that because of committees that were "stacked" with cronies on your side. i.e. the committee that rejected a well qualified H. Locke. That’s a fact.

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  12. Which position was the well-qualified H. Locke rejected for?

    Where is H. Locke now?

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  13. "A well-qualified Helen Locke?"

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ... stop! Ha, ha, ha ... that is way too funny!

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  14. To Anonymous 1:25 pm

    This stuff can go on for years because we have a board that allows it to go on. We have a board that is so anti-instructor, anti-education really, that their goal is to keep in power a chancellor who they feel will allow faculty the least possible say in college matters. This violates Ed. code, but with virtually no enforcement, the faculty must resort to suits to get the truth out.

    We are stuck with a supremely unqualified chancellor, a chancellor who cannot lead, so must resort to back room deals and the good ol' boy network to impose his and the board's will.

    It's deplorable, but it is probably not going to change any time soon.

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  15. thanks for the coverage Chunk!

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  16. If our fine colleges are mediocre as you claim, then why do you stick around? Most people who have left either retired or moved on to new opportunities. It looks like Celly found a good thing over there at Santiago and I’m happy for her, so what’s the point in a lawsuit 4 years later? It’s not like she’s out of work. Sure people have a right to petition, but the truth here is that all you folks are in nice cushy jobs earning very comfortable salaries doing your own things, so why complain? I guess it’s because you’re from the me-first generation of one-ups-man-ship and you figure if you all make enough noise for a long enough time, eventually you’ll wear down your opponents and get what you want; POWER and CONTROL! I’ll be honest; the technique does work but look what you’re doing to yourselves… Why be so polemical all the time? It’s not like this admin is riding you 24/7, you basically have a lot of freedoms in what you do.

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  17. Right on, 8:54. RIGHT ON!

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  18. To answer 8:54:

    I think some people, like Celey, like those who stick around, have a sense of commitment - not entitlement - but commitment to principles that go beyond "comfortable" salaries and so-called cushy jobs.

    Some people - not you, obviously, but others.

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  19. oh, I dunno, 8:54, someone discriminate against me and then puts me in a hostile workplace - well, I'd probably look for some justice. Other people might just take it on the chin but I was brought up different.

    you?

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  20. 9:11 and 9:42 - martyrs in your own minds. Now go out and enjoy the day for a change and try smiling instead of walking around thinking whoa is me.

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  21. oh, don't worry, I smile and I never once think "whoa is me."

    Trust me on this one.

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  22. whoa is me! whoa is me!

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  23. unsmiling martyr8:29 AM, May 01, 2007

    whoa is me!

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  24. What ever happened to Rodney King? Me thinks we should just live by his profound "Can't we all just get along?" Rodney wasn't out for power and control though.

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  25. April 30, 2007 8:54 PM, Right you are, I think the technique here is plain to see; if you can't get the Chancellor out democratically, attack the Chancellor's appointments (Ward & Poindexter) and ability to lead and eventually wear him down & out. The same stuff is being done to President Bush. No surprise here.

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  26. Your absurd comments aside, 12:15, Bush wasn't democraticaly elected, if you remember 2000.

    How you get "attack" out of a desire for competence is beyond me, but then you apparently think W is a fine leader.

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  27. yes, damn those who imagine they have a right to criticize a president, his appointments or policies. The real patriots shut up and march. That's the American way all right.

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  28. I thought Helen Locke was still employed at the district...what happened?

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  29. Go Cely! Go Carol!

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  30. Helen was hired by Owen Krezza too! Few people know but she's a crack shot and has a a brown belt!

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  31. I knew Helen was qualified!

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  32. Helen has a nice smile.

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  33. I bet few peeps know that yo mama wears army boots and smokes Cuban cigars!

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  34. And yo momma and the peeps love me when I smoke those Cubans, 1:56. Nothing like a good Cuban and a momma who wears combat boots. Almost as good as a belt fed weapon!

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  35. Faculty’s vote of no confidence in Raghu Mathur:
    No confidence = 98%
    This is the part of their survey that they don’t disclose;
    (Sample size = 8, Margin of Error = ±89%, Confidence Level = 11%)

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  36. April 30, 2007 4:47 PM, “This stuff can go on for years because…” The fact is, you’ve made a choice to keep it "going on" for years. You and your koolaid bunch decided 10 years ago to hold our fine Colleges hostage and you should be ashamed of yourselves. It’s just that f-ing simple! “Hey Ahab, give me back my doobage” the man said.

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