Former Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Taylor stated in a lawsuit April 19 that Long Beach State University wrongfully terminated her based on a romantic relationship she allegedly shared with a former employee who was charged with capital murder last year.
Taylor was placed on administrative leave Oct. 2, 2018, the same day that Jamie Williams, a former Associated Students Inc. employee, was arraigned for the double homicide of his stepfather and stepsister.
Three days later, the university fired Taylor, according to the court filing.
“We do not typically comment on pending litigation,” said Jeff Cook, chief communications officer for the university via email. “But we believe that the characterizations made are false and that the complaint is without merit.”
The details of the complaint tells Taylor’s side of the story following her separation from the campus and Williams’ involvement in a Compton shooting Sept. 28.
“It’s pretty common for people nowadays to file suits so I can’t say I’m surprised,” President Jane Close Conoley said in a March 13 interview when asked her thoughts on the lawsuit. “I was a little disappointed. We’ll see, it’s out of my hands now.”
The original complaint was filed Oct. 12 for $10 million against the university, but it was revised April 19 under a different attorney, Dean Royer, against the Board of Trustees California State University.
According to the lawsuit, Taylor, who is Black, alleges that she was fired because of her sex and race. She also says she was wrongfully terminated for allegedly having a relationship with an employee when non-Black employees had engaged in previous romantic relationships on campus and weren’t disciplined. The lawsuit also asserts that she was terminated for reporting to an LBSU attorney that funds were used improperly, and time records were falsified for a federal work program.
Taylor alleges in the lawsuit that after Williams was arrested for the alleged murder of his family members, Conoley accused the former VP of “having a disturbed individual on the campus.”
Former university spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh told the Daily 49er in October 2018 that Conoley received a complaint in March that Taylor was romantically involved with another employee. Conoley questioned Taylor about it, but Taylor denied the allegations.
Although it is unclear in the details of the complaint whether Taylor and Williams actually shared a romantic relationship. Taylor alleges in the lawsuit that Williams stalked her.
The day of the shooting, Williams visited the campus and entered several areas, telling various students and employees about his alleged relationship with Taylor. He also visited the President’s Suite and the Office of Student Affairs; Taylor was not in her office at the time.
Campus members reported to the University Police Department that Williams was “anxious” and airing his grievances.
According to the court filing, as soon as Taylor was notified of Williams’ actions on campus, she requested that the university issue an emergency protective order against Williams. According to Taylor, the university refused.
Although Taylor denied accusations that she was intimately involved with Williams, Carbaugh told the Daily 49er last year, the connection between the two was being looked into.
After the Sept. 28 shooting, Taylor states in the suit that neither Conoley nor anyone from the university expressed concern for Taylor’s mental health or offered counseling to Taylor, who says she was the target of workplace violence. The context of such violence was unspecified in the complaint.
Within the court filing, Taylor included that she was fired despite the fact that she had always received positive reviews as vice president. She also says she was paid less than her male peers at the university.
Taylor is suing the CSU system for damages; she asserts that she has been unable to find a job since her termination due to a negative presence in the press last year.
In the days following Taylor’s departure, the university filled her position. Former Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Ann Takemoto was promoted to interim vice president of student affairs Oct. 8, 2018.
“We really felt that given the dramatic departure of Dr. Taylor, it would be important to keep a little stability and not do too much change yet to try to figure out if there were pockets of concern among the existing staff there and students,” Conoley said in March. “I think Mary Ann has been doing a fabulous job just making sure everybody’s voice has been heard and trying to unravel any lingering feelings people have, pro or con about the situation.”
This story will be updated.
Kat Schuster is a senior and award winning reporter who started her journalistic career covering arts and life for The Cuestonian and New Times in San Luis Obispo. After transfering to Long Beach State, she became the News Editor and happily traded her social life for a string of breaking news stories and midnight cups of coffee in the newsroom. As Editor in Chief she can be found pacing around the same newsroom, still contemplating whether caffeine in the afternoon is a good idea. Kat hopes to someday work as a foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times or Associated Press and to eventually become an author. When she’s not typing away in the newsroom, she enjoys surfing, creative writing, taking herself out for sushi and playing music too loud in her apartment.