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What Happened to David A. Katz? (Department of Chemistry, West Campus)
My name is David Katz. I have been a full-time instructor in the Department of Chemistry at the West Campus since 2002. I am 69, and education has been my life for over 40 years. Throughout my career, I have had many successful students who have gone on to careers in science, engineering, medicine, and more. I been the recipient of several awards for my teaching and outreach activities. I have always been active in the life of the institutions where I have worked, including committee work and with the Faculty Senate at PCC.
My fellow faculty members and Faculty Senate colleagues know that I defied the environment of fear at the college and spoke up on issues that affected our students, faculty, and the college. While our former Chancellor often agreed with me, unfortunately, under the present Chancellor, who was supposed to usher in an era of openness, collegiality and fairness, that has not been true. Standing up for what I believed to be best for the college and the community has had its consequences. Our current Chancellor, Lee Lambert, contrary to all his public statements, has shown far too much willingness to listen to the remnants of the old administration instead of objectively examining the facts of my case.
What did I do at the college that brought about this attack on my character, the threatened loss of my job and the likely end of my career? In short, what I did was to expose laboratory problems at the West Campus, where thousands of dollars of laboratory equipment and instrumentation were disposed of without consulting anyone in the chemistry department. Also, under our former dean, the infrastructure of the West Campus chemistry department had crumbled. Instruments and electronic apparatus were not serviced or repaired, anything inoperative just sat on a shelf until it collected enough dust, then, they were disposed of. There was no replacement budget even though there were thousands of dollars in lab fees we could not touch. (The West Campus administration refused for years to move on this issue.) Two years ago, the West Campus chemistry department had essentially no instrumentation necessary to teach our courses. After discussions with my former dean, with no resolution, I communicated the problem in an email dated July 30, 2013.
Speaking up put me on Notice of Investigatory Leave of Absence for "possible violations of the Code of Conduct/Discipline, Section V, which includes behavior and language that demonstrates unwillingness to cooperate with others, lack of collegiality, disrespect, bullying or harassing, insubordination, use of profane language and an inappropriate display of anger towards other employees including faculty colleagues, staff, your supervising administrator and temporary and student workers."
After the process of Investigatory Leave of Absence was initiated, my college email was suspended and a kitchen sink of charges by the administration were added. Many were manufactured and/or embellished, and were not supported by facts. This was followed by a Summary of Findings, suspension of pay, and, eventually, a Notice of Decision to Recommend Termination of Employment without even consideration of any resolution or corrective action. There were never any previous written warnings regarding their allegations that were ever issued by college administrators.
This ordeal has been beyond stressful as the administration has tried to destroy my personal and professional reputation. Fortunately, the AEA did provide me with an attorney to protect me during the process. My attorney, Dan Cooper, of Cooper and Udall, wrote a letter to the college on October 17, 2013.
The college inquisitor (now separated from the college) did speak with a limited number of colleagues and some lab people in an attempt to justify the allegations after the fact. Subsequent materials included a number of undocumented generalities, untruthful statements, and falsified photographs of laboratory materials, but, again, there were no specifics or documentation of any written warnings supplied by the administration.
I did meet with Chancellor Lambert on December 17, 2013, where I refuted many of the after-the-fact allegations and asked to be reinstated in the classroom. That resulted in a letter of December 19, 2013 placing me back on paid investigatory leave of absence.
Rather than meet with me to address the issues, and attempt to reach a solution in a timely manner, the college administration chose not to communicate with me from December 19, 2013 until a meeting with Lambert on July 1, 2014 at which time he promised me a contract for 2014-2015 at a possible meeting the first week in August 2014. At that time, there was never any report of findings from the December 19, 2013, investigatory leave. Instead of a meeting, there was no communication until an August 20, 2014 "Return to Work Agreement" (RTWA) which is a list of conditions the Chancellor wants to impose on me in order for me to return to the classroom.
This RTWA list implies that these are things that I do not do or have not done as part of my normal teaching practices. Furthermore, it implies that some of these are items that I may have abused. This is not true as my teaching was never questioned. All but one of these items were never part of the original allegations against me and most of them were never discussed in the two meetings we had in December 2013 and July 2014 and they are not supported by documented evidence. Under these restrictions, all I would be permitted to do is to go to my office and teach my classes. They violate our Employee and Faculty Personnel Policy Statements and our academic freedom, not to mention my first amendment rights to freely exchange opinions with my colleagues. They ignore my career history as an expert demonstrator bringing visualization of chemical phenomena to my classes, my international professional involvement, my educational research in developing new chemistry demonstrations and activities and new laboratory experiments, and course development, particularly in integrating traditional lectures and laboratory.
I have always had outstanding reviews throughout my tenure at the college. As an example, my former dean summarized my performance in our 2012-2013 Annual Collegial Conference Record by stating “David Katz has accomplished his goals. His professional development and service to the community/outreach goes above and beyond. He has been invited to present and to be keynote speaker at 2 international conferences next year.”
Although the college cited the Personnel Policy Statement for College Employees against me, they totally ignored that same document, along with the Faculty Personnel Policy Statement, during their dealings with me. There was never a fair investigation or any sincere attempt at resolution. I believe there was a lack of commitment by the college administration to any problem solving in this case with an outcome that was pre-ordained with the Return to Work Agreement issued too late to even begin any teaching for the Fall 2014 semester.
Through my lawyer, I asked the Board of Governors for reinstatement and damages on November 14, 2014. A draft of the lawsuit was attached to that letter. The Board did not respond in any meaningful manner.
Finally, on December 3, 2014, we filed our complaint in Federal Court.
On January 14, 2015, we filed an additional Notice of Claim for "(1) breach of contract, or in the alternative, promissory estoppel, and (2) breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing" which was served on the Pima County Community College District and the Board of Governors.
I know there are others in the college who, historically, have been subjected to the same kind of heavy-handed administrative abuse. I hope they will have the courage to defy the continuing environment of fear and step forward and be heard.
For now, I remain in exile (i.e., administrative leave). The environment of fear is still with us.
Read the results of the employee survey rating of PCC administrators.
These are the documents and exhibits. These are PDF files and require Adobe Acrobat Reader.
This is the email of 7-30-2013, to my former dean, that started the process against me.
This is the letter to the Board of Governors sent 11-14-2014 asking for reinstatement and damages.
This is the Complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
These are the Exhibits to the complaint. They consist of the following in a single file.
This is the 8-20-2014 "Return to Work Agreement" the college wanted to impose on me.
This is the Notice of Claim filed and served on the Pima Community College District on January 14, 2015
These are the Exhibits for the Notice of Claim. They consist of the following in a single file.
This headline appeared in the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday, September 18, 2016
Court rebukes PCC's Lambert
in chemist's suspension