June 18, 2024
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CLU donors demand Gallegly Center gifts back

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A replica of the Washington, D.C. office of former U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly, at California Lutheran University’s library. The university removed the display in 2021. (file photo)

Seventeen major donors to the Elton and Janice Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement located at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks are demanding reimbursement for donations made toward the development of the center.

On behalf of all 17 donors, Pasadena-based law firm Groveman/Hiete LLP sent an 11-page letter to the university on Aug. 31 detailing the donors’ wishes for reimbursement.

The letter contends failure on behalf of CLU and the Board of Regents on multiple promises made during the planning and construction of the center as well as commitments made after it was opened to the public.

“The donors are livid and they want their money back,” Barry Groveman, the managing partner at Groveman/Hiete LLP, told the Business Times. 

“They’ve been let down and the commitments made by the university have been dishonored.”

In response to the letter, Mark Berry, a spokesperson for CLU, said the university received two boxes of documents just before 5 p.m. The statement said the counsel who sent them “likely took weeks, if not months to prepare the content and sent them at the most inconvenient of times for us, as we were in our first week of classes.”

“Rather than emailing the documents to Cal Lutheran’s outside counsel or general counsel, they chose the theatrical approach of arriving on campus unannounced, rolling boxes of documents across campus and interrupting the university’s business operations,” the statement continued.

“At Cal Lutheran, we put the needs of our students first and were, therefore, not able to review the documents immediately,” it said. 

“The decision to apparently leak at least some of the contents of the boxes is clearly an attempt to use emotion, partial information, and theatrics to influence how people in Ventura County perceive Cal Lutheran,” the statement concluded.

The 17 donors are seeking to be paid their donations back that went toward creating the center, in full, by Sept. 25, as well as a full accounting of all private donations made to the center.

The donors seeking reimbursement include Howard and Susan Groff; Michael and Pamela Groff; C.G. and Vikki Kum; Ed & Veronica (Roni) Tagliaferri; Tony and Linda Federico; Joe and Joani Halcomb; Robert C.Cohenour and Linda Cohenour; Roger and Kathy Clark; and David Crocker.

“The donor’s commitment to creating a center for public service and civic engagement was unwavering and in perpetuity,” Groveman said in a press release. 

“They worked tirelessly to raise funds and collaborate with CLU to establish an open public space that would honor public service, preserve historic documents and promote the values they hold dear. Regrettably, the donors find themselves in a situation where their trust has been seriously betrayed.”

Elton Gallegly, the former U.S. representative who also has an ongoing lawsuit against the center named after himself, could not be reached for comment.

The Gallegly Center, opened in May 2018, was supposed to “foster public service values, promote scholarly endeavors, and honor the legacy of Elton and Janice Gallegly,” according to a Sept. 6 news release.

Instead, it has been at the center of controversy, being embroiled in a lawsuit since November 2021 when Gallegly himself sued the university after alleging it failed to fully establish the center on its Thousand Oaks Campus. 

The lawsuit also contended that the university refused to account for funds he and his wife Janice raised for the center.

This action from the 17 donors is separate from Gallegly’s lawsuit, which is still ongoing after a judge ruled against CLU’s motion to dismiss the case. 

The Gallegly Center was established through a series of financial donations, but the 17 donors content that the university’s recent and ongoing actions by administrators show that they have “knowingly violated the spirit and clear intent of the comprehensive Resolution passed in 2017 by the Board of Regents for the school to construct and operate the Gallegly Center.”

The resolution included detailed plans for the center’s construction and operations, including fellowships, scholar residencies, a distinguished speaker series, and the proper archiving of official congressional papers, according to the press release.

But the letter contends that CLU has instead “Bowed to cancel culture,” hindering the promotion and development of the center, obstructing access to the replica office, failing to manage official documents properly and not following through with the prestigious student scholarships.

“The outrage in the community stems from the University’s radical actions, which unjustly deny deserving students the opportunity to access prestigious scholarships bearing the names of President Ronald Reagan and Congressman Elton Gallegly,” Groveman said.

The letter also contends that CLU employees have disparaged the former congressman on multiple occasions with the university making no effort to take a stance against said remarks.

The subsequent loss of the Reagan Foundation’s support, which happened in October 2022 after the executive director of the foundation said the university had not lived up to the promises made to the center’s namesake, also fueled growing resentment, the letter said.

Though the damage done by CLU is not calculable, according to the letter, they intend to recover their full donations, which add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“My clients are hoping for a quick resolution to this matter. However, the failure of CLU to meet these reasonable demands will leave my clients with no choice but to explore all their legal rights at law and equity,” Groveman said.

email: newsroom@pacbiztimes.com