A former faculty member at Pima Community College will receive nearly $150,000 in an out of court settlement after a federal judge found his civil rights were violated by the school’s CEO.
David A. Katz will receive $100,000 in compensatory damages and $49,815 for lost pay in the wake of the finding that Chancellor Lee Lambert denied due process to the chemistry instructor who was let go in 2014.
Katz will not, however, get back his old job, which paid $65,000 a year and which he has said he hoped to resume.
Neither side would comment on the settlement, which includes a gag order on all parties and an agreement to not make “disparaging, denigrating or defamatory comments,” about each other.
The deal was signed Nov. 21 by Lambert and PCC Governing Board chairman Mark Hanna. The Arizona Daily Star received a copy in response to a public records request.
The defendants, including Lambert, two former subordinates and the college district as a whole, denied wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
But a pretrial ruling in July by U.S. District Court Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson found Lambert violated Katz’s constitutional right to due process when the instructor was suspended, and later let go without being given an opportunity to defend himself.
The Fourteenth Amendment provides extensive due-process protections to state employees, including the right to an impartial hearing, the right to details of alleged wrongdoing and the right to refute allegations before disciplinary action occurs.
PCC didn’t follow any of those practices in the Katz case, said Jorgenson, who declined to rule out the possibility that Lambert could be held personally liable for damages if the matter went to trial.
Katz’s lawsuit made several other claims the judge rejected, such as that his free-speech rights were violated when he was disciplined after complaining about laboratory conditions at the college’s west campus.
PCC portrayed Katz in court records as a problem employee prone to angry outbursts, a characterization disputed by some current and former college personnel.
The settlement agreement calls for the parties to bear their own court costs.
Katz’s damage award will be covered by PCC’s insurer, the Arizona School Risk Retention Trust.