Settlement reached in former Woodbury University employee case

A case involving a former Woodbury University employee who filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the college, alleging she was fired without cause, was recently dismissed, according to court records.

La Cañada Flintridge resident Rose Nielsen, who is also the wife of Kenneth Nielsen, Woodbury University’s former president, claimed she was fired in September 2012 after reporting alleged mistreatment of other university employees by the wife of Luis Calingo, the college’s then newly named president.

Reached by phone on Monday, both Rose Nielsen and an attorney representing Woodbury University in the case — Citadelle Priagula — declined to comment on details about the settlement that was reached out of court, both citing confidentiality agreements.

Rose Nielsen filed a complaint in December 2012 alleging she was fired from her role as senior director of development not long after encountering an emotional university maintenance employee who was in tears because he had allegedly been “threatened with termination” by Calingo’s wife, Gemeline.

She took the incident to the university's head of maintenance employees sometime around late August 2012, “who indicated that he, too, had suffered a similar incident at the hands of Mrs. Calingo,” according to the complaint.

By early September, when Rose Nielsen was terminated, she asked to meet with Luis Calingo, but he declined a meeting, according to the complaint.

Rose Nielsen was initially hired by the university as a development officer in 2000, earning $30,000 after putting in four years of volunteer service that began in 1996, the year her husband was hired as Woodbury’s president.

A few years after she was hired, she began reporting to Robert Kummer, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, instead of the college’s advancement office.

By October 2005, the board of trustees promoted Rose Nielsen to director of development and she was earning $65,140 annually. Ultimately, she went on to earn $136,000 a year, including benefits, as senior director of development for the college, according to court records.

In her complaint, she alleged that she was lauded by Kummer for successfully securing nearly $400,000 during a scholarship fund-raising campaign.

When Kenneth Nielsen retired in 2012, and Calingo took the helm of the private college, Rose Nielsen believed she would stay in her position of senior director of development for perhaps another decade, in part because of her service to the college and the promotions she received over the years, according to a court declaration.

Although there was speculation that she would retire at the same time as her husband, she had no intentions of doing so, she said.

“I came to expect that my employment would continue so long as there was no good cause to terminate me,” she said in a declaration. “I loved my job, and I intended to continue there for at least another 10 years.”

Michael Faber, the attorney representing Rose Nielsen in the case, also declined to comment on the settlement, except to say in an email, “It was a privilege to represent Mrs. Nielsen.”


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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