A change of plan after the college expresses an apprehension of a wrongful termination lawsuit
In a tense meeting last Friday, the Associated Students of Central Oregon Community College decided to suspend Financial Coordinator Dustin Moore with pay.
The group had previously tried to dismiss Moore, a decision the college advised against in the belief that it provided grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Group members dismissed the letter at first, responding to it with suspicion and disbelief.
“They [Dean of Student and Enrollment Services Alicia Moore, COCC President James Middleton and their legal counsel] believe that somehow we violated or were remiss in firing Dustin Moore at the last meeting,” said ASCOCC Member Terry Link.
Link believed the warning to contain “flat out, simply untrue statements” and wondered if Dean Moore was being “disingenuous or trying to engineer
By reinstating Dustin Moore, the college believes it could protect itself and ASCOCC against a lawsuit, according to ASCOCC Advisor Taran Underdal during the meeting. The group expressed further suspicion after this explanation.
“So the college is going to thwart the will of the student council and it doesn’t matter what auspices the college is going to assert itself in absolute control in everything pertaining to this matter,” said Link.
Despite being at personal odds with ASCOCC recently, Underdal explained the importance of remaining professional in such situations.
“The tension between ASCOCC and me has escalated in the last month. It’s important to maintain a working relationship despite personal conflicts. As advisor I serve not just this group of six but all student that are enrolled as members of ASCOCC,” said Underdal. “Not having a working relationship is detrimental to the greater population.”
Tensions further increased during the meeting after budget issues were addressed. The ongoing dispute between ASCOCC and COCC is whether they will have enough money left to cover remaining expenditures this school year.
Underdal presented the college’s recommendation that priority should be given to clubs and programs. Link interpreted this advice as a threat to ASCOCC and said that the college recommending decisions to the group was “disingenuous at best and malicious at worst.”
ASCOCC Member Brenda Pierce affirmed during the meeting that the council should make the right decisions.
“As of two days ago, we had $22,000,” said Pierce. “We will make decisions to make sure that we will stay in the black.”
An ASCOCC-crafted budget shows that there will be enough money until the end of the school year for its expenditures, a projection college administration members don’t have full faith in.
When asked whether the council’s budget should be in the black at the end of the year, Director of College Relations Ron Paradis said, “If there’s truly $22,000 and if there’s no bills that need to be paid.”
The only way for the budget to be in the black is if Miller Nash and PR Ink, the firms of the attorney and public relations consultant hired by ASCOCC during the school year, withdrew their bills and permanently waived them. Even with that, either payroll or the committed money for clubs and programs would have to be cut, according to Underdal
“They can craft it in the black but some commitment will not be met or met to the full extent it was promised,” said Underdal.
Tobey Veenstra can be reached at Tveenstra@cocc.edu
Kirsteen Wolf can be reached at Kwolf@cocc.edu