Huttenbacks Sue Board of Regents, Charge Defamation

Times Education Writer

Former UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Robert A. Huttenback and his wife, Freda, charged with embezzlement and fraud in connection with a dispute over the alleged misappropriation of university funds, have filed suit against the University of California Board of Regents and several high-ranking university officials.

Arguing that they were defamed, emotionally wrecked and financially devastated by false accusations against them, the Huttenbacks have accused the UC governing board and administration of deception, breach of contract and failure to conduct a "full and fair" investigation of all the allegations.

The Huttenbacks' suit, which was filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court and seeks an unspecified sum for damages, is the latest development in a saga of difficulties for the former chancellor.

Nearly a year ago, the flamboyant administrator and historian was asked by UC President David P. Gardner to resign following several years of fierce criticism by various members of the faculty of the University of California, Santa Barbara. After his resignation, the former chancellor and his wife became the subjects of a criminal investigation launched at the request of the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury. That case involved the alleged misappropriation of $174,000 in university funds for the renovation of the Huttenbacks' personal residence.

In their suit, the Huttenbacks argue that they had received authorization from the appropriate university officials to remodel their home but that the cost of the remodeling was grossly inflated as part of a kickback scheme involving a former campus manager of operations and maintenance. The manager, Holger Chris Ferdinandson, was recently sentenced to four years in prison after pleading no contest to three counts of embezzlement.

Ferdinandson also was named as a defendant in the Huttenbacks' suit, as was Robert Tuffnell, a university auditor, whom the Huttenbacks argue conducted an unfair and incomplete audit of the remodeling contract.

President Gardner and UC Vice President Ronald Brady were named in the suit for coercing Huttenback into signing an agreement to pay back the $174,000 and then failing to conduct a full investigation of the entire alleged kickback scheme. Also named were all members of the Board of Regents and 80 unnamed persons.

President Gardner acknowledged on Tuesday that he knew of the suit against him but said he had not yet been served with the legal papers. Huttenback, typically an outspoken man, referred all questions on the case to his Santa Barbara lawyers.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World