Fired prof sues Williams

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Ernest B. Moore, who taught under the name of Bernard Moore, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Nov. 27 stating Williams College breached his contract and violated the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) by refusing to continue his health benefits as required by the law.

The complaint was filed under the name of Bernard Moore.

Moore further stated he was illegally disciplined and wrongfully discharged from his position at Williams College after being placed on administrative suspension without pay.

The college suspended Moore following his guilty plea on one count of student aid fraud, one count of bank fraud and one count of Social Security representative fraud on Nov. 9 in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The fraud was in excess of $800,000, and Moore faces up to 41 months in prison with his sentencing scheduled for Feb. 17, 2010.

James G. Kolesar, assistant to the president for Public Affairs at Williams College, said Tuesday the college hasn't formally received an official copy of the complaint but has an unofficial copy.

"The claim has no merit, and the college will respond in that light," he said.

According to court documents, Moore is asking for $300,000 in back pay, front pay and reimbursement, and $1 million in punitive damages from Williams College.

In addition, he is requesting the college pay damages resulting from its alleged violation of COBRA; pay his attorney's fees, costs and disbursements; pay interest accumulated before and after the judgment; and pay "such other relief as this court seems just, proper and equitable."

According to court documents, Moore received a letter from Williams College Interim President William G. Wagner on Nov. 12 listing four allegations constituting adequate cause for terminating his employment at Williams College.

The allegations included the guilty plea as well as presenting credentials for employment "at least one of which was fraudulent and some of which was attained through fraudulent means."

Moore, who has a doctorate in political science from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a master's degree in American politics from Claremont Graduate University in California, has admitted in court that he doesn't have a bachelor's degree.

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His credentials have been in question since the guilty plea.

Williams College "at no time never [sic] requested any undergraduate academic records from Dr. Moore nor did he submit any documentation or records related to any undergraduate studies. Nor did Dr. Moore present to Williams College any credentials that was [sic] fraudulent or which were attained through fraudulent means," Moore's suit stated.

In addition, Wagner's letter to him stated Moore -- who is a permanent resident of Inglewood, Calif. -- used his college credit card "for purchases not permitted by college policy," and he should have notified the college of the guilty plea.

Kolesar said Williams College continues to investigate purchases made on Moore's Williams credit card and what actions the college might take regarding them.

"It remains the case, however, that the number of dollars involved is not financially serious," he said.

According to his lawsuit, Moore said he wasn't obligated to notify the college of the guilty plea or the investigation initiated in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Education into his student loans at Claremont Graduate and Howard universities.

Moore, 51, was in his second year at Williams College when he was fired on Nov. 16, and was the college's W. Ford Schumann ‘50 visiting assistant professor in democratic studies.

He also served as a senior policy fellow and congressional aide for U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.

According to court documents, Moore said he wasn't given any opportunity to redress the allegations made by the college in a formal hearing.

Kolesar said Williams hasn't had an occasion to develop a procedure for dealing with a faculty member who'd committed felonies outside the college, but Moore was given two opportunities to respond to the claims against him -- once by phone to the dean of the faculty and once by letter to the interim president.

"His response was to admit that he'd committed felonies, which included fundamental dishonesties," Kolesar said.

He added, "The college has a culture of openness and honesty in all dealings, which is embedded in its code of conduct and which requires members to report even the suspicion of, let alone the admission of, having committed a felony."

To reach Meghan Foley, e-mail mfoley@thetranscript.com.


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