(Thousand Oaks, CA) – Former 26-year United States Congressman Elton Gallegly today sued California Lutheran University (CLU), alleging it refused to account for more than $1 million raised by Gallegly and also breached its contract to fully establish the Gallegly Center For Public Service and Civic Engagement on its campus.
The university had solicited Gallegly to locate the center at CLU, committing to archive his papers and materials and foster a distinguished speakers endowment in conjunction with the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute. The university has not followed through on its commitment and is now threatening to eliminate the exact replica of Gallegly’s Congressional office in Washington, D.C. that was built at the university’s own suggestion and direction, to support the Gallegly Center’s mission and be its hub. This year, the university gave Gallegly an ultimatum demanding that the furniture, plaques, and pictures be removed.
“I have never sued anyone in my lifetime, so I do not take this step lightly,’’ Gallegly said, adding, “But I feel I have no alternative but to compel Cal Lutheran to live up to the agreement they sought with me to establish the Gallegly Center and curate my papers and materials. Not just for me but also the donors who generously gave to bring this into fruition.”
Gallegly’s attorney called it a classic bait and switch. “Elton agreed to this arrangement with Cal Lutheran because the school sought him out and lobbied him to create the Gallegly Center at the campus. The apparent bait and switch and lack of financial transparency by the university is disturbing,” said attorney Charles Slyngstad of Burke, Williams & Sorensen LLP.
The Gallegly Center was to become a major initiative in the school’s Master of Public Administration program. The University’s Vice President who helped negotiate the original contract with Gallegly remembers it well. “CLU approached Congressman and Mrs. Gallegly with the concepts for the Gallegly Center and they both did everything asked of them by the university,” said R. Stephen Wheatly, the Vice President of University Advancement from 2002-18. The deal with the Galleglys was finalized in 2012. Wheatly added “The university laid out to the Galleglys a strong vision for the Center which fit very well with the university mission statement of commitment to service. The Galleglys insisted from the beginning, and worked diligently to ensure, that the purpose of the Center be focused on the importance of public service and not about politics.”
After the dispute first arose, the university promised to hire a forensic accountant to account for funds donated and raised by the Galleglys. Subsequently, however, an attorney for the university notified the Galleglys that the university would renege on that promise and is now refusing to perform the forensic accounting to determine how the money was spent.
CLU’s lack of fiscal transparency and failure to use raised funds as intended is the subject of numerous complaints to the California Attorney General by donors to the Center. “My grandson worked in the official Congressional office, which is one reason I was excited to think we would have a replica of it there on the west coast and why my husband and I were the first to donate to the project,” said Susan Groff in her complaint filed with the California Attorney General’s Office.
As he was in the process of retiring from Congress, Gallegly had discussions with California State University Channel Islands to curate his papers and materials. But early in 2012, Cal Lutheran’s president at that time Dr. Chris Kimball, and others on behalf of CLU, began lobbying Gallegly to bring his papers to Cal Lutheran and proposed the establishment of the “Gallegly Center” at CLU.
The Galleglys, even though it was not part of the contract, immediately raised money to support the academic goals and the construction of the 1,600 sq. foot Gallegly Center with an exact replica of his congressional office which is the centerpiece and Hub for the entire center. Former Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice cut the ribbon and was the keynote speaker at the Center’s dedication.
During Congressman Gallegly’s 26 years in Congress, he represented a northern portion of Los Angeles County as well as portions of Santa Barbara County and most of Ventura County. His distinguished career included serving as the vice chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee on Judiciary, and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“As a long serving United States Representative, Elton Gallegly has been a true friend to Ventura County, its residents and all those seeking careers in public service,” said former Ventura County District Attorney Greg Totten.
“In addition to all of his other great service, Elton probably saved tens of thousands of jobs by preventing the closure of the two strategic military bases in Ventura County,” said Joanie Young, long time community leader and former member of the Cal Lutheran Board of Regents.
Community leader Regina Hatcher-Crawford said, “Elton has been a family friend for a long time. Congressman Gallegly was a close friend of my father, John R. Hatcher III, and as a representative of Ventura County, consistently works to reach across the party lines to do his best for the betterment of all people, regardless of their race or color.”
“Janice and Elton have worked their hearts out for almost 9 years,” said Glen T. Becerra, former Regent of CLU Board of Regents. “At the direction of former President Kimball, they put together an exceptional Advisory Committee comprised of some of the finest business leaders in Ventura County spending hundreds of hours on issues like archiving which was formerly approved after a full year of work. They have had great success with their fellowship program providing 10 fellowships for the master’s program with two more available pending applicants final approval.”
Prior to being elected to Congress in 1986, Gallegly served as Mayor of Simi Valley.
A copy of the filed complaint may be viewed here.
Contact: Kelly Garman