The president of East Los Angeles College said Thursday he did not know that business law professor Hal Mintz owned a massage parlor in West Hollywood when he wrote a letter on Mintz's behalf last year to the city's business license commission.
"If I had known it, I wouldn't have written the letter," said Arthur D. Avila, the college president.
Mintz, who is chairman of the college's business department, owns 20th Century Travel Advisors Inc., which does business as the Beverly Hills Massage Parlor.
West Hollywood officials claim that the massage parlor, located at 8574 Santa Monica Blvd., is a house of prostitution and they want to close it down.
The commission voted 3 to 1 in July to revoke its license, but the massage parlor has remained open pending an appeal to the City Council, which is expected to act this week.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, at least 10 women have been arrested for sex-related offenses there since 1984.
In his letter to the commission in May, Avila praised Mintz as "one of our most active and distinguished faculty members."
Mintz has asserted that many of his students and colleagues at the college, including Avila, have known about his involvement with the massage parlor for years and that "not one negative thing has come out of it."
However, Avila said that he only found out on Wednesday and that he has since expressed his displeasure to Mintz for what the president described as "the embarrassment" caused to the college.
"Maybe he thought he had told me and assumed I knew, but I didn't," Avila said.
Avila said that when Mintz asked him to submit the letter, he understood that Mintz "was having some kind of trouble with one of his businesses . . . something about a license renewal. But I didn't know which business or what kind of business it was."
"I'm no prude," Avila continued, "but there's a saying that applies to educators: You've not only got to be good, you've got to appear good. I would never have put myself in the position of appearing to support a massage parlor."
Mintz, who said he owns seven other unrelated enterprises, including a real estate development company and a lobbying firm, has taught at the college for 19 years and on three occasions has been president of the Academic Senate.
He said he frequently draws on his business experience in the classroom.
"In talking about government regulation, for instance, I've been able to use the massage parlor as an example. It's something that keeps (the students') attention and helps drive home the point," he said.
On Thursday, the professor spent several minutes at the beginning of his Business Law 1 class talking about his recent troubles at the massage parlor, which he said have cost him "$40,000 to $50,000 in legal fees" during the past year.
Afterward, he asked if any of the dozen students had questions.
"Yeah," said one young man. "Can we get student discounts to your business?"