Former Vice President Richard van Pelt filed a lawsuit against PCC on Thursday, alleging that the district breached his contract and failed to reimburse his business expenses while employed by the school, according to court documents.
The suit claims that van Pelt is owed at least $185,000 in severance pay for the time he was on administrative leave until he was “wrongfully” terminated, which was about a year ago, according to the suit.
“… In the event that the Board intends to act to terminate this employment contract prior to its termination date,” van Pelt’s contract states, according to the suit. “The District shall pay the administrator as severance pay…”
The suit does not identify when van Pelt was formally terminated, only that he is owed money for the period between June 2012 and June 2013.
The suit also lumps in van Pelts lawyer and court fees he had to pay when LED Global, a lighting firm, sued him, Facilities Services Supervisor Alfred Hutchings and the district in 2012. They were accused of soliciting bribes in exchange for the $5 million lighting contract for the school, but the case was dismissed in early 2013 because it had no merit, according to court records.
Van Pelt also claims in the suit that the school never took the necessary steps to investigate the matter fully before firing him and only eventually took action to “justify the malicious actions of Rocha and General Counsel Gail Cooper.”
The Board did not return requests seeking comment on this story.
Van Pelt and Hutchings were both placed on administrative leave (and later terminated) by the school after search warrants were served by the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Office in June of 2012. The DA had served the search warrants based on information that LED Global representatives gave to the DA.
In the lawsuit, it states that Hutchings told van Pelt that Cooper was sexually harassing him. Van Pelt reported the misconduct to Rocha, who “laughed and mocked the complaint,” saying that “everything Cooper does is done with [Rocha’s] approval and Authorization,” according to the suit.
The suit claims that van Pelt and Hutchings were terminated as an act of retaliation because of this incident. Hutchings sued the school for wrongful termination in 2013 and in April the school reached an unknown settlement with Hutchings outside of the court and the case was dismissed.
This story has been updated.
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