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Suit claims UO forced teacher out.

Byline: Greg Bolt The Register-Guard

A University of Oregon professor is suing the school over claims that she was forced out of her job for calling attention to financial irregularities in a graduate program and is seeking more than $1 million in damages.

Jean Stockard, a professor in the planning, public policy and management department, resigned as department head and retired from the university early after what she claims was retaliation by the university for being a whistle-blower. The Lane County Circuit Court suit names nine UO professors and administrators as defendants and seeks damages on eight claims, including retaliation, infliction of emotional distress, defamation and violation of the state's whistle-blower statute.

UO general counsel Melinda Grier did not return a call seeking comment on the suit. The university claims in a letter sent to Stockard late last year that her dismissal as department head had no connection with her concerns about the graduate program and that her decision to report the problems was appropriate.

According to the lawsuit, Stockard became aware of financial irregularities in a program known as the Institute for Policy Research and Innovation in the spring of 2005. The program sponsors research on a variety of public policy issues and brings in visiting scholars.

The department of planning, public policy and management is part of the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Its classes and research focus on a variety of public policy issues, such as city planning, health programs and governance.

The problems Stockard reported concerned the treatment of three South Korean visiting scholars enrolled in the IPRI, who complained that they had been charged for services that should have been covered by their tuition and that they did not receive the training they paid for.

The students had paid up to $20,000 each to take part in the program.

Stockard claims in the lawsuit that she brought the problems to the attention of UO officials, including President Dave Frohnmayer and then-Provost John Moseley, but that they failed to take action. She later reported the issue to the secretary of state's fraud and abuse division.

That prompted an audit by the Oregon University System, which found a number of accounting errors that the university subsequently rectified.

But while Stockard was on a scheduled sabbatical in fall 2005, she received a letter from a university official saying that she would be removed as department head unless she voluntarily resigned. The letter said the move was not related to her actions regarding IPRI but said "faculty have expressed concern" about her ability to "move forward from the problems that arose around IPRI."

Stockard declined to step down and was isolated, deprived of budget authority, excluded from meetings and threatened with a "no confidence" vote, the suit claims. Unable to continue her duties, Stockard resigned as department head in February and in June retired earlier than she had planned because of "continuing retaliatory conduct" by other faculty and admini- strators.

The suit seeks compensation for lost income due to her early retirement and alleged defamation in addition to punitive and compensatory damages.

In addition to Frohnmayer and Moseley, defendants named in the suit are Lorraine Davis, vice president for academic affairs; Frances Bronet, dean of the School of Architecture and Allied Arts; Richard Linton, vice president for research; and professors Michael Hibbard, Judith Hibbard, Ed Weeks and Richard Margerum.
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Title Annotation:Higher Education; A retired professor says the university retaliated when she found financial errors
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 9, 2006
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