July 26, 2014

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Book buys preceded firing of LCCC dean

ELYRIA — Generosa Lopez-Molina was fired from her post as Lorain County Community College’s dean of academic foundations last year after an internal college investigation determined that she had used school funds to pay for textbooks for her children and herself and that she had been involved in trying to secure a contract for her husband.

Lopez-Molina

The allegations against Lopez-Molina, who is now vice provost of academic programs and faculty development at National Louis University in Chicago, were turned over to Elyria police for investigation, and the results have been submitted to Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will’s office for review.

Lopez-Molina has not been charged with a crime and her attorney, Eric Zagrans, said his client disputes all of the allegations, which he called “baseless.”

“This is a modern-day, 21st-century witch hunt,” he said.

In a letter asking LCCC President Roy Church to overturn the June 4, 2012, decision to terminate her contract, which had been set to expire a the end of that month, Lopez-Molina wrote that while she may have demonstrated lapses in judgment, she didn’t believe her actions were “significant violations” of the college’s code of conduct. She also questioned why she was being “persecuted” and said she and her work had been “marginalized and dismissed.”

“I have felt ostracized, and on occasion subjected to hostility and singled out for retaliation,” she said. “Why is it necessary to attempt to destroy my life and my family?”

Church responded that he believed the firing was appropriate and denied her request for a personal hearing.

Tracy Green, the college’s vice president of strategic and institutional development, said she couldn’t discuss the allegations against Lopez-Molina.

“This was a personnel issue that has been resolved,” she said.

National Louis University spokeswoman Susan Barnett said her institution was unaware of the allegations against Lopez-Molina and couldn’t comment on them. She said the matter would be looked into if doing so were appropriate.

Textbooks

Most of the allegations against Lopez-Molina deal with her ordering books through the college bookstore and charging those books to the Academic Foundations Department account.

According to the investigative report, Lopez-Molina racked up charges of $881.30 in books and materials for her and her family’s personal use between August 2006 and June 2011.

The investigation determined that on Aug. 30, 2006, Lopez-Molina sent an email to a bookstore employee ordering two books. Lopez-Molina picked up the books on Sept. 8, 2006, and signed for the cost of $48.95 to be charged to the Academic Foundations account.

In December 2006, she ordered another book that cost $127.25, which was billed to her department’s account. Two additional books valued at $97.45 were ordered in April 2007 and collected by Lopez-Molina on May 2, 2007, and again charged to her department’s account.

The college investigation showed that all five of those books were cited in a dissertation she prepared while pursing a doctorate though the online Capella University. Two searches of Lopez-Molina’s office by LCCC Security Director Keith Brown in May 2012 didn’t turn up the books.

The investigation also determined that Lopez-Molina ordered language books and CDs for Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, French, Italian and Spanish in May 2011 and charged them to the college. But when the college checked the Diversity Task Force office in the Academic Support Center in June 2012, three of the 12 books picked up the year before by Lopez-Molina weren’t there. The missing items were valued at $38.85.

The college also investigated other purchases made by Lopez-Molina that the school contends were actually bought for her children to use in their own classes.

On Aug. 17, 2008, Lopez-Molina’s son sent his mother an email that said “These are the two textbooks I need for my stats course this fall,” according to the college’s documents.

The next day, Lopez-Molina sent an email to a bookstore employee requesting those books be ordered. The books, valued at $148.70, arrived on Aug. 25, 2008, and were charged to the Academic Foundations account the next day.

Lopez-Molina also is accused of ordering six books, valued at $420.10, on Jan. 12, 2010. That order was placed a few days after Lopez-Molina’s daughter sent her mother an email listing “books for the spring semester,” noting that the books were expensive and suggesting that her mother see if used copies could be obtained.

Five of the books were delivered to the bookstore on Jan. 26, 2010, and charged to the Academic Foundations account. The sixth book arrived on Feb. 2, 2010, and was subsequently charged to the same account.

In her letter to Church, Lopez-Molina defended her book purchases.

“The books alleged to have been purchased by me for my family members were textbooks that were recommended by my daughter for her use as well as other students attending the Academic Support Center,” Lopez-Molina wrote.

She noted that she often ordered books and other materials at the suggestion of faculty, staff and students.

“This was unusual only in that it was originally recommended by my daughter,” Lopez-Molina wrote.

Zagrans denied that his client bought books for herself or her family members. All of the books were for the remedial center Lopez-Molina oversaw and her daughter volunteered in, he said.

“All of these books were purchased for that room,” Zagrans said. “Now if they were also read by one of Dr. Lopez’s children, that doesn’t alter the character of the purchase of these books.”

He said the college denied Lopez-Molina due process and those in charge of the decision had already made up their mind what to do by the time she was brought in for a disciplinary hearing. Zagrans said college officials refused to allow him into the hearing, although the college’s lawyer was present.

He also called the investigation “sloppy” and said the college never checked to see if the books were in the Academic Support Center.

Contract

The other misconduct allegation against Lopez-Molina centers on a five-month contract she sought for her husband, Juan Molina Crespo, who has served the college as an adjunct faculty member at various times between January 2004 and May 2012.

He was told in June he would not be offered a new contract for the 2012 fall semester.

The disputed contract called for Molina Crespo to be hired as coordinator for the college’s Diversity Task Force, which Lopez-Molina chaired until she was placed on paid leave on May 9, 2012. Molina Crespo was to be paid $45.94 per hour for up to 20 hours of work a week between Jan. 19, 2012, and May 18, 2012, according to the college.

The college pegged the potential value of the contract at $17,457.20, but Zagrans said the figure was closer to around $900 for the work Molina Crespo actually did on the White House Hispanic Community Action Summit at LCCC on Feb. 18, 2012.

Manager of Student Life Selina Gaddis told investigators she was pulled out of a meeting on Feb. 15, 2012, and asked by a staff member to sign the contract, something she normally wouldn’t have the authority to do.

The document was then submitted for approval to Provost Marcia Ballinger’s office, but Mary Ann Littell, an executive assistant, noticed that Gaddis had signed the contract and returned it to her.

On Feb. 23, 2012, Lopez-Molina sent an email to Ballinger asking how to pay Molina Crespo for the work he had done. Ballinger referred the matter to Vice President of Administrative Services and Treasurer Quentin Potter.

When Potter questioned Lopez-Molina about how her husband had received the job, she informed him that an announcement was made at a January 2012 meeting of the Diversity Task Force seeking someone to staff the White House event and Molina Crespo offered his services.

But that account doesn’t match up with the recollections of others involved in the planning of the White House event, the investigation determined. Both Gaddis and Littell said they didn’t recall any solicitation of proposals for someone to be paid for the work. They also said the members of the Task Force weren’t involved in the selection of Molina Crespo.

“Mary Ann Littell also stated that she assumed (Molina Crespo) was volunteering his services to the Task Force and was surprised when she was later presented with a contract for his services,” the report said.

During a May 18, 2012, interview with Tom Hayes, who conducted part of the investigation for the college, Gaddis said that Lopez-Molina didn’t ask her to serve as co-chair of the Diversity Task Force until February.

“The arrangements (were) never finalized in (Gaddis’) opinion and her role as co-chair was not formalized by the College,” Hayes wrote. “Soon afterward, (Lopez-Molina) contacted (Gaddis) about a contract that she needed to sign for (Molina Crespo) for his work as a consultant for the White House Summit.”

The investigation also determined that on March 18, 2012, Molina Crespo sent his wife an email that said “How is this for a start?” That email contained a copy of a work proposal dated Jan. 9, 2012. The college took this to mean that the couple was preparing backdated documents to support their version of events.

Molina Crespo also offered his wife “sample language that she could submit to VP Quentin Potter to deflect the conversation away from the contracting process with (Molina Crespo) to a larger discussion about the budget” in a March 23, 2012, email, the report said.

Molina Crespo also wrote, “Nena, it appears to me that we should consider all consequences, good and not so good, of submitting additional detailed information to the requestor.”

The college concluded that it was “apparent” the couple had worked together to mislead Potter.

In her appeal letter to Church, Lopez-Molina wrote that she had sought guidance on how to handle her husband’s contract and called her inquiries “honest, transparent and above board.”

“Never at any time was there an attempt by me, my husband or any staff member to hide anything from anyone,” she wrote.

Zagrans said that it wasn’t a secret to the college that Lopez-Molina and Molina Crespo were married. He said Molina Crespo was the only person who was interested in the job and since the contract was never signed, he was never paid for his services.

“Dr. Lopez didn’t hide what she was doing,” Zagrans said. “She couldn’t find anyone else to do it.”

The college noted in the report that this wasn’t the first time that Lopez-Molina had sought a contract for her husband. In February 2010, she signed a contact for him to serve as a guest speaker and when it was pointed out that they were married, a new contract, signed by another college employee, was created in April 2010.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.