2012-03-30 / Front Page

Former student body president *les lawsuit against college

By Darleen Principe darleen@theacorn.com

The former student body president of Moorpark College, who was removed from elected office earlier this year for alleged misconduct, said he is filing a lawsuit against the institution because recent disciplinary actions brought against him violate his civil liberties.

Jonathan Foote, 32, of Camarillo was removed from his post as president of the Moorpark College Associated Students in January after allegedly violating the school’s student code of conduct.

He was then suspended from MC and escorted off campus.

But Foote, who is known on campus for being an activist, said the allegations against him are false and that he is being punished for his “outspoken advocacy” for the student body.

“It pains me to no end knowing that I am being forced to take legal action against a school I love and respect so much,” Foote told the Moorpark Acorn. “I worked so hard to find ways to lower or eliminate . . . unnecessary expenses and waste, (in hopes of) keeping as many classes open as possible.

“And now I am faced with the reality of costing my campus for conspiring to get rid of me by any means possible.”

Last week Foote filed a writ of mandate lawsuit in Ventura County Superior Court to appeal his suspension from the college.

He asserts that the school handed down disciplinary actions without affording him legal due process.

Sequence of events

On Oct. 11, 2011, Foote met with Patricia Ewins, dean of student learning at MC, after noticing the Associated Students general fund was overdrawn by $868.61.

The account, funded by annual student ID fees, is generally used to pay for campus events and other student activities.

According to the account ledger, about $3,500 was billed to the account between July 15 and Aug. 31 in order to pay for more than 300 hours of student worker payroll during the summer semester.

Concerned about the large number of payroll hours—which Foote said were far more than the number of average work hours billed during the fall and spring semesters, when the campus is more active—he decided to bring the account to the attention of Ewins, who is in charge of signing the checks.

“When she realized I uncovered a possible violation and misappropriation of funds, she got very defensive and quite nasty with me,” Foote said. “She basically threw me out of her office.”

The day after the meeting, Foote said he was harassed by a MC police officer, who accused him of being intoxicated on campus. He told the Acorn he was not intoxicated and had actually been working on calculus homework with one of his professors.

“I was still president of the campus,” he said. “So I felt a responsibility to go to the dean and explain what happened. I let her know that this seemed like retribution.”

Shortly after the incident, Foote received a “letter of reprimand” from the school.

Then on Nov. 3, he received another warning letter for allegedly inciting a riot, he said

By January, Foote was removed from office.

And a Feb. 29 incident, during which the former student body president allegedly stole items from the school, earned him a suspension for the rest of the spring 2012 semester.

Foote said all the accusations against him are untrue.

Ewins and MC president Pam Eddinger said this week they could not comment on the issue because of federal student privacy laws governing disciplinary actions.

Support from faculty

Clint Harper, chair of the civics department and tenured professor at MC, said the accusations against Foote seem “dubious.”

“Jonathan is not a typical student,” Harper said. “When he ran for the position of student body president and won, he decided he would make something of the offi ce.”

Harper, who received a signed release from Foote to speak with the media concerning the issue, said he is “distressed” about what seems to be happening to his former student.

“The allegation where police said he was inciting a riot, he was out there gathering signatures for a number of different causes, like asking about not increasing (tuition) fees on the students,” Harper said. “He’s very much an activist. This is something that is kind of unusual these days—someone who is that involved as a student.”

Harper said that in his 34 years as a full-time professor at MC, he has never seen a situation get “out of hand” between students and the administration.

In supporting Foote, he also said he thinks the administrators handling the case are “decent, good people who made some mistakes” and are simply unwilling to admit it.

“Here’s this amazing young fellow who comes in and really wants to make something,” the professor said. “He just ran flat into a buzz saw.”

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