Q: How much is the settlement between Dr. Richart and the MiraCosta Community College District (Settlement Agreements A & B)?
A: There will be no payments from the district to Dr. Richart. The settlement calls for Dr. Richart to return to the college $775,000, which she received pursuant to the 2007 settlement. The college then pays her a total of $775,000 to settle her claims. This was a business decision made by the college for multiple reasons, including many future unknown outcomes and costs associated with taking the issue to trial. This is the right decision by the college, is fully legal, and ends a decade-long period of uncertainty.
Q: Aren’t there actually two related sets of claims in which the college is involved?
A: There are two related sets of claims – one involving Dr. Richart and the college directly, and one involving Dr. Richart and three individual college Trustee from that period of time. The settlement agreements (A & B) approved by Trustees on March 18 pertains to the claims involving Dr. Richart and the college directly; the other claims were resolved by the insurance carriers defending the pertinent Trustees. The Trustees did not vote on the settlement involving the three Trustees. There will be no impact on college operations from either set of claims, as any associated settlement costs are the responsibility of various insurance companies.
Q: How does this settlement compare to others of a similar nature?
A: Each case of this type is different, and settlement agreements take a variety of forms. The college’s insurance carrier, which is responsible for any associated costs, feels the settlement is reasonable. College operations will not be affected at all by the settlement.
Q: Is the college paying Dr. Richart’s attorney fees as part of the settlement?
A: There are no funds being paid by the college’s general fund for Dr. Richart’s attorney fees. Thus, there is no impact on day-to-day college operations as a result of this agreement.
Q: Who is paying for this? Does it come out of the college’s general fund?
A: Any costs associated with this settlement are the responsibility of various insurers, and there will be no impact on college finances, operations, or the ability of the college to help its students succeed.
Q: Will the college’s insurance premiums go up as a result of this settlement?
A: The college is part of a Joint Powers Authority insurance program, which is a group of agencies that are insured together; this structure reduces costs and spreads risk among several parties rather than just the college. The college’s insurance premiums are not expected to rise as a result of this or any other settlement.
Q: Will the college need to reduce any instructional or facilities spending as a result of this settlement?
A: Since any costs related to the settlement are the responsibility of insurers, there is no impact on instructional or facilities spending; likewise, there is no impact on college operations from the claim involving the one current and two former Trustees. In fact, the settlement allows the college to move forward and focus on student success without the distraction of a lawsuit.
Q: Why did the college choose to not go to trial?
A: The issues that led to this lawsuit have caused anxiety and uncertainty on campus for nearly 10 years; this agreement puts an end to the legal and organizational challenges that have detracted from a focus on student success. The college conducted extensive research, consulted with legal experts, and considered every option before moving forward with the settlement agreement. The benefits of an agreement outweigh the uncertain costs and other outcomes of a trial.
Q: Does Dr. Richart owe the college anything?
A: The settlement calls for Dr. Richart to return to the college $775,000, which she received pursuant to the 2007 settlement. The college then pays her a total of $775,000 to settle her claims. Therefore, there will be no payments from the district to Dr. Richart or from Dr. Richart to the district.
Q: How much has the college spent so far on legal fees?
A: Approximately $500,000 has been spent in trying to protect the college against claims by others. The settlement agreement allows the college to not incur any more legal costs related to this issue. The college's insurers have spent additional funds in connection with this lawsuit.
Q: Is the college admitting wrongdoing?
A: There is no admission of wrongdoing by either party in the settlement agreement between the college and Dr. Richart, and all future claims by either party against the other have been released.
Q: Does the college expect any further issues to arise from this case, including future lawsuits, resignations, or job terminations?
A: One of the primary reasons the college decided to settle this lawsuit was to put an end to any potential future litigation or other actions. The agreement effectively ends this decade-long issue once and for all and allows the college to move forward without this significant distraction.
Q: Were faculty, staff, or students asked for input about the settlement?
A: Lawsuits are complex and require the expertise of seasoned litigators to determine whether to settle or take a case to trial. Trustees conducted extensive research and made a decision that is in the college’s best long-term interests. They are also committed to providing as much information about the agreement so that faculty, staff, students and the community have confidence that this is the right course of action.
Q: This case started with an issue involving the Horticulture Department. How was that specific issue resolved?
A: The college has placed various controls on its operations and strengthened its personnel policies to avoid a similar situation in the future. Trustees and administrators have learned a great deal from this painful process, and are committed to moving the college forward without the shadow of any pending litigation related to this issue.
Q: What has the college done to ensure this will never happen again?
A: Trustees and administrators have looked deeply into all aspects of college operations and have significantly tightened-up district personnel policies and procedures to avoid any similar situations. The past decade has been extremely difficult, and the college has learned a great deal from this process that will allow it to become an even stronger educational resource for its students.
Q: Some community members, including a former Trustee, believe that the college had a very solid case and should have taken this case to trial. Why did the college settle instead?
A: The college’s legal counsel recommended the settlement based on his deep experience with the case over a four-year period. There were numerous reasons to support the decision to settle, and the action is in the college’s best long-term interests.