File photo: Tiffany Yip
File photo: Tiffany Yip

The district recently signed a settlement agreement stating there was no evidence found that former architecture instructor Coleman Griffith committed sexual harassment, agreeing to allow Griffith to resign with early retirement benefits and pay $18,000 to a search engine optimization firm to “perform online reputation management services.”

According to the settlement agreement, Griffith has not filed any lawsuits against the district and agrees that he will not sue the district in the future.

One of the provisions in the settlement is that all records involving Griffith and the district are to be placed and remained in a “sealed envelope and marked with instructions that the contents shall be disclosed only upon written authorization by Griffith,” according to the letter.

Even though the district maintains that “there has been no finding that Griffith committed sexual harassment against any person at any time,” the settlement also states that “neither party admits to the truth and merit of the position asserted by the other party or the falsity or lack of merit in the positions asserted by it with respect to any matters existing from or relating to either party’s claims.”

Griffith is no longer eligible to be hired for any position within the district.

“As you know Professor Griffith retired and other then wishing him the very best in his retirement and future endeavors, I cannot comment further on personnel matters,” said Assistant Superintendent/Senior Vice President Robert Miller.

The settlement was discussed in closed session at the last Board of Trustees meeting due to “a verbal claim of damages by Coleman Griffith, architecture instructor, against the district sounding an invasion of privacy arising from a comment by a district employee,” said Gail Cooper, the school’s general counsel.

When Griffith was placed on paid administrative leave in January, Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Robert Bell was criticized by faculty and administration for his comments disclosing the reason Griffith was placed on paid leave. He and the Faculty Association accused Bell of violating confidentiality in the personnel matters of a faculty’s pending investigation. Bell later retracted his comments.

Griffith was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 20 and suspended without pay starting Apr. 20.

In the past three years, Griffith is the third teacher to be accused of having inappropriate behavior with students and the second to be placed on administrative leave. Former history professor Hugo Schwyzer resigned from his position after admitting to having sex with former students and former Courier adviser, Warren Swil, was placed on leave and then returned to the school after admitting to showing a student nude photos of himself.

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