Saturday, February 19, 2011

MiraCosta pursuing money from Richart

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MiraCosta pursuing money from Richart
Judge awards attorneys fees to Cozad
North County Times - The Californian
February 18, 2011

MiraCosta College appears to be serious about collecting cash from its former superintendent and president Victoria Munoz Richart.

In a San Diego courtroom on Friday, Robert Bower, an attorney representing the college, asked Judge William Dato to schedule a contempt of court hearing against Richart that could give the college more power to collect money it paid her in a June 2007 settlement agreement. A court ruled last year that the settlement was void because it exceeded a state law that limits public employee severance packages to 18 months of salary and benefits.

Dato declined Friday to set the contempt hearing because he is being transferred south from his post at the North County courthouse in Vista to the main central San Diego Courthouse on Broadway. The college will have to ask a new judge in Vista for a hearing, which Bower said he intends to do.

Robert Ottilie, Richart's attorney, was not available for comment Friday afternoon.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Leon Page ---- the Carlsbad attorney who successfully sued MiraCosta and Richart over the 2007 settlement ---- signed over his rights to enforce the judgement to the college.

Page said in a previous interview that he now trusts MiraCosta's board of trustees to collect the money, which some estimate as high as $1.2 million. Page supported the campaigns of four candidates who were elected to the college board in November.

The Richart case started with an investigation of illegal palm tree sales from the college's Horticulture Department. During that investigation, some board members and faculty actively questioned her leadership, while the board majority backed her decisions.

Amid the turmoil, Richart and the college reached a settlement, referencing public criticism of Richart that they said had potentially left the college open to a lawsuit. A court first upheld the agreement, but an appeals court later overturned that ruling and found in favor of Page.

On Friday, Dato also ordered MiraCosta to pay $472,804 in legal fees to Page's lawyer Ronald Cozad.

In a written ruling, Dato stated that "Page's action plainly enforced an important right affecting the public interest and conferred a significant public benefit."

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