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Former nursing instructor sues SRJC for $15 million


Santa Rosa Junior College is facing a $15 million lawsuit filed by a former nursing instructor who says school officials illegally denied him tenure and ruined his reputation.

Daniel Doolan won a $308,000 judgment in a similar case last December in which he alleged discrimination, harassment and defamation. The jury in that case found that the college was not guilty of discrimination or harassment but did find in Doolan's favor on his claim that college officials had defamed him.

Doolan then filed a multimillion-dollar follow-up suit that covers a period of time and issues not heard by the jury in the original case, according to his San Francisco-based attorney, Dustin Collier. That lawsuit will prove that Doolan was not granted tenure because he's a man, Collier said.

"In the first lawsuit, we were discussing the things that happened until Sept. 7, 2012," he said. "The second covers everything after Sept. 7."

"They ultimately terminated him and denied him tenure," he said.

Santa Rosa Junior College President Frank Chong declined to discuss the situation.

"It's a personnel matter," he said.

Karen Furukawa-Schlereth, vice president of human resources, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The suit alleges that because of his multiyear contract, it was difficult to fire Doolan, so school officials illegally manipulated the tenure process to dismiss him.

According to his lawsuit, the school's tenure review team in January 2013 unanimously voted to deny Doolan a permanent place on the staff. Approximately three months later, Doolan was put on paid administrative leave, but he claims he was not informed why.

Doolan says that after being dismissed by the junior college, he was subsequently unable to land a job of equal stature. He recently was hired by California State University East Bay, according to Collier.

"It basically sets him back about a decade on his career," Collier said.

Doolan earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Sonoma State University and a doctorate from UC San Francisco.

According to his lawsuit, Doolan was hired as adjunct faculty member in the associate degree nursing program at SRJC in 2001.

Doolan, who was a student at Santa Rosa Junior College before he returned as an instructor, was lauded in a 2009 campus newsletter when he accepted a full-time, tenure-track position at SRJC.

"Daniel is a classical example of 'growing your own,' " the newsletter reads. "Let us welcome Daniel Doolan back to his academic home."

But friction between Doolan and his superiors emerged in his second year of the tenure process, according to the lawsuit.

Collier said Doolan was criticized for using a whistle to control an unruly class, locking doors to discourage tardiness and for being aggressive during a confrontation with a Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital nurse over working with junior college nursing students.

Through his attorney, Doolan declined to comment.

Doolan began to receive "needs improvement" on his tenure-review documents, according to the lawsuit.

"We are going to have a battle over whether they had a business reason for this," Collier said.

The two sides are slated to meet July 3, at which point a trial date could be set, according to Collier.

You can reach Staff Writer Kerry Benefield at 526-8671, kerry.benefield@press democrat.com or on Twitter @benefield.