Steve Moore might be out of a job right now but at least his sudden termination from Pepperdine has given him a free mind and a free schedule. He’s thinking about the future and has more time to keep fighting to free Amanda Knox from the Italian jail where she could potentially spend the next 25 years of her life.
Moore the former FBI special agent and Pepperdine Public Safety official recently set his Facebook status to “Ideal city: Scenery from San Francisco courage and character of New Yorkers attitude and neighborhoods of (and the Cubs from) Chicago weather and beaches of LA charm of Atlanta history of Rome freeways from Germany and surrounded by Yosemite and Yellowstone.”
But amid the dreams for a future Moore has also filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against Pepperdine University claiming the University violated his First Amendment right to political speech with his dismissal.
He also claims in the suit that Pepperdine violated one of the key elements in it’s own mission statement: “That the Truth having nothing to fear from investigation shall be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”
Moore has said he sought truth— as well as justice— in his post-trial inquiry into the Amanda Knox case.
Knox and her ex-boyfriend Raffaelle Sollecito were convicted in December 2009 of the brutal 2007 murder of Knox’s flatmate British student Meredith Kercher. Also convicted of the crime was a wanderer Ivory Coast citizen Rudy Guede.
The prosecution said the trio killed Kercher in a drug-fueled erotic game that ended with Kercher’s stabbing.
Moore after overcoming his FBI-esque skepticism of criminals professing their innocence became convinced of the couple’s innocence after studying key evidence involved in the case that drew heated global media attention.
And it is speaking out on her behalf Moore says that got him fired.
Jerry Derloshon Pepperdine’s executive director of public relations said that the University disagrees wholeheartedly with Moore’s characterization of the dismissal but is unable to say more due to legal restriction regarding personnel issues.
It is this void of discourse on tough issues that seems to be perpetuating the administration’s reputation as lacking in transparency.
Moore’s unexplained dismissal seems to be the latest in a series of events that have many on campus wondering of the administration “Why did they do that?”
This spring professors Alexander Diener and Stella Erbes were denied tenure at the President/Provost level an extremely rare occurrence. Most often when professors don’t receive tenure they do not make it past the peer-review board that initially evaluates them.
Further confusion was added to the mix this summer when Stella Erbes’ decision was reversed and she was welcomed into the ranks of tenured faculty.
These too added to the shroud of secrecy can’t be avoided in personnel cases as Pepperdine General Counsel Marc Goodman pointed out.
“There are some aspects of the relationship between an employee and employer that are considered private and generally should not be shared with those outside that relationship Goodman explained in an e-mail. While the nature of this relationship is actually well-developed in both state and federal law it does not lend itself to just pointing to a single law or statute in order to fully understand the depth and breadth of the protections afforded to employees. There are overlapping sets of laws that lay out what information about an employee can be shared with others.”
But as Vice President and General Counsel Gary Hanson wrote in a recent e-mail “for us it is more than [just the law].
“Basically we play fair: Privacy over the long course favors the individual in employment matters and so does a consistently applied policy. We will of course respond appropriately to the lawsuit that Mr. Moore has filed.”
Silence in personnel issues is a pretty standard track for corporations Derloshon said. He illustrated the point saying when a network journalist called him for comment on Steve Moore’s dismissal the journalist began his conversation saying “‘So I know that you’re probably not allowed to say more than you’ve already said…'”
With regards to transparency issues in other matters Provost Darryl Tippens attributed lack of transparency to the fact that many different groups committees and individuals make decisions and they aren’t necessarily aware of other decisions made by other bodies.
“Pepperdine like all universities exists in what has been called a ‘loosely coupled’ environment— this means decisions are made in many different venues with many different committees and councils making the decisions Tippens wrote in an e-mail.
Throughout Pepperdine there are literally dozens of decision-making bodies when you consider all that operate at the five schools as well as in the central administrative. The problem is that the many decisions generated by all these decision-making bodies don’t always get clearly communicated throughout the university he continued.
Moore is hoping that the reasons behind his termination will come out in the discovery process in the lawsuit: If there is something else here I’d love to know what it was Moore said in a telephone interview.
Moore also said his is seeking vindication and monetary damages in excess of $25,000, although an exact number is not specified in the suit.
Moore said he’s not filing suit to get rich but that in this process he’s been hurt financially. Also, he wants some people to answer for what he calls arbitrary” actions.
“I’m not trying to get rich off this; I’m trying to get people to realize what some people at Pepperdine are doing unilaterally Moore said.
I firmly believe my firing was arbitrary he said a bit later in the interview. But it didn’t surprise me.”
Moore said he’d seen the administration act in an arbitrary manner regarding employment issues without explanation. But as the California statute mandates they didn’t explain themselves.
Moore says the administration needs to answer some tough questions because “they’re getting away with it because nobody says anything.”
Moore said he has come to love the school and what it stands for.
“What’s happening to me is not Pepperdine but, he said, Harm will come unless something is done about it.”