Fired Woodbury University exec files lawsuit

The wife of Woodbury University's former president filed a complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court this week alleging she was fired from her job as senior director of development without cause after reporting alleged mistreatment of other employees by the wife of the school's new president.

Rose Nielsen alleges in her complaint, filed on Monday, that she was fired Sept. 6 not long after reporting that she had been approached by a maintenance employee in tears because he had allegedly been “threatened with termination” by the wife of Woodbury's new president, Luis Calingo.

Nielsen reported the incident to Woodbury's human resources department after speaking with the university's head of maintenance employees “who indicated that he, too, had suffered a similar incident at the hands of Mrs. Calingo,” according to the complaint.

When Nielsen was terminated, she was told that no reasons would be given, and that Calingo would not meet with her, according to the complaint.

“How shocking it is that not only did Dr. Calingo refuse to meet with her or speak with her, but that no reason was given to her after all these years of really devoted service for summary termination,” said Nielsen's attorney, Michael Faber. “It's just awful.”

In an email Tuesday, Woodbury spokeswoman Janet McIntyre said the university would not comment on the allegations made in the complaint.

“Because this matter is now before the courts, the university is unable to comment, except to say that it will vigorously defend its actions through the litigation process,” she said.

In 2000, Nielsen was hired by the university as a development officer earning $30,000 following four years of volunteer service she offered since her husband, Kenneth Nielsen, was hired as president in 1996, according to the complaint.

Three years after she was hired, she directly reported to Robert Kummer, chairman of Woodbury University's Board of Trustees, instead of the campus advancement office.

In October 2005, the Board of Trustees promoted Nielsen to Director of Development with a salary of $65,140. She was ultimately promoted to senior director of development, earning $136,000, including benefits, “in recognition of her outstanding service to Woodbury,” Rose Nielsen claims in her complaint.

Her husband was succeeded by Calingo in July, but Rose Nielsen expected to remain in her position “for the indefinite future” after being lauded by Kummer for successfully netting nearly $400,000 during a scholarship fundraising campaign, the complaint says.

Meanwhile, as she learned of her termination, Calingo allegedly placed Kenneth Nielsen — who had agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity to assist with the leadership transition — on sabbatical and told him that “he was not to set foot on campus for at least a year without a personal invitation from [Calingo],” according to the complaint.


Follow Kelly on Twitter: @kellycorrigan.


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