Engineering whistleblower lawsuit set to begin trial

State Hornet Staff

The trial for a federal retaliation lawsuit filed by Cici Mattiuzzi, director of engineering career services, against Sacramento State and Engineering and Computer Sciences Dean Emir Macari is set to begin Tuesday.

After filing a lawsuit against a Sac State professor in 2009, Mattiuzzi is claiming the university retaliated against her and has been subject to discriminating actions, including exclusion from key career services meetings and removal of departmental funds.

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

Mattiuzzi claims she is being punished for filing a whistleblower lawsuit against former Sac State Miroslav Markovic, who allegedly sexually harassed students and once threatened to shoot several employees.

While Markovic retired shortly after the case was filed, which was settled in 2010, Mattiuzzi returned to work after taking a medical leave and was immediately subject to “adverse action” by Macari.

According to the trial brief, Sac 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 claims 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 alleges 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.

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

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

According to Mattiuzzi’s trial brief, there is 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 bankruptcy in October 2012, he was dismissed from the case in February 2013. He will still serve as a primary witness.

Macari is currently on a leave of absence from Sac State due to unknown reasons.