Engineering career services director and Sacramento State settle lawsuit

State Hornet Staff

A federal retaliation lawsuit filed by Director of Engineering Career Services Cici Mattiuzzi against Sacramento State and Engineering and Computer Sciences Dean Emir Macari reached a settlement Jan. 16 which includes the dismissal of all evidence.

The case, which included three days of testimony from Mattiuzzi and her husband Paul, was settled after Sacramento State agreed not to pursue filing, deposition and other standard litigation fees if the jury had found in the university’s favor.

“The University considers this result a complete victory in its favor,” said attorney David Tyra. “Throughout the litigation, the University had a high degree of confidence in its defense. Post-trial interviews with the jurors who heard the plaintiff’s case during the first three days of the trial revealed that the University’s confidence in its position was well-founded. Many of those jurors – without having heard a single witness from the University – felt the evidence weighed in the University’s favor.”

After filing a lawsuit in 2009, Mattiuzzi claimed the university retaliated against her and was subjected to discriminating actions, including exclusion from key career services meetings and removal of departmental funds.

According to a trial brief filed by Sacramento State, which was represented by the California State University Board of Trustees, the plaintiff’s claims were “meritless” and are based on “ginned-up overreactions to innocent, non-retaliatory measures.”

In 2009, Mattiuzzi filed a whistleblower lawsuit against former Sac State engineering professor Miroslav Markovic, who allegedly sexually harassed students and once threatened to shoot several employees.

Markovic retired shortly after the case was filed, and the lawsuit was settled in 2010.

When Mattiuzzi returned to work after taking a medical leave, she claimed she was immediately subject to “adverse action” by Macari.

According to the trial brief, Sacramento State allowed Markovic to visit the campus to have his personal laptop repaired, and Mattiuzzi alleged the campus refused to shield her from Markovic.

Mattiuzzi also claimed she was excluded from the 2010 Workforce Summit Meeting, an event established by her to discuss solutions to the shortage of engineers in the community. She said she was not able to plan, organize, attend or participate in the event.

According to the trial brief, Mattiuzzi was excluded because the meeting was held during spring break, a time in which Mattiuzzi did not work.

Mattiuzzi also alleged Macari removed funds improperly from her career services account, a fund she uses for events, supplies, equipment and services. An alleged $130,000 was taken without her consent, according to court documents.

The university said the withdrawal was used in “an unprecedented fiscal crisis that required the utilization of all funds.”

Mattiuzzi’s attorney Stephen Mason said the case was very expensive to litigate and included over $100,000 in attorney fees.

He said Mattiuzzi accomplished her main goal, which was to notify the public of what was really occurring at Sac State. Her story, which includes 35 years of wrongdoing, is now public record.

Mason also noted how there has been an “unusually high number of claims” of sexual harassment and retaliation by tenured employees, and includes a recent lawsuit filed by University Advancement employee Jeffrey Sharp against Alexander Gonzalez Jr., the son of President Alexander Gonzalez.

According to the California Whistleblower Protection Act, employees cannot be retaliated against or prevented from disclosing potential violations of state and government law.

According to Mattiuzzi’s trial brief, there was a causal link between the Markovic lawsuit and the proximity in time between the protected action and the alleged retaliatory actions.

The case was first filed in federal court in May 2011, but after Macari filed for bankruptcy in October 2012, he was dismissed from the case in February 2013. While he would have served as a primary witness in the case, he remains on a leave of absence from Sac State for unknown reasons.