The California State University board of trustees will pay former chancellor Joseph Castro $400,000 as part of a settlement agreement following his resignation last month, according to a copy of the agreement released Friday morning by the school.
The settlement comes a month after a USA TODAY investigation revealed Castro mishandled years of sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation complaints against a senior administrator while he was president of CSU Fresno.
Castro will enter into the university’s “executive transition program” and be classified as an “advisor to the board” for one year, the agreement shows, drawing a $401,000 salary. Castro will also maintain his “retreat rights,” which grant him the ability to join the faculty at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as a tenured professor.
Castro has yet to inform Cal Poly whether he will exercise his retreat rights, chancellor’s office spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp said. Castro cannot exercise them until the after the one-year transition program ends in February 2023, Uhlenkamp said.
The settlement prevents Castro from suing the university in connection with his time as CSU chancellor or Fresno State president, the agreement shows.
California Faculty Association, which represents 29,000 CSU professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors, and coaches, released a statement calling the settlement “outrageous and irresponsible.”
“It sends a message that the CSU Board of Trustees endorses rewarding bad behavior when it comes to our administrators,” the statement said. “Trustees are more interested in business as usual and damage control than they are in addressing severe and systemic harassment and abuse across the CSU.”
Castro resigned as chancellor on Feb. 17, two weeks after USA TODAY’s investigation revealed Castro authorized a lucrative settlement for Frank Lamas, Fresno State’s then-vice president of student affairs, in the days leading up to Castro’s promotion to chancellor.
Although an internal investigation found Lamas responsible for sexually harassing a subordinate and engaging in abusive workplace behavior, the settlement enabled Lamas to leave the university with $260,000 and a clean record in exchange for his retirement. The deal banned Lamas from working at the CSU again but promised him a letter of recommendation from Castro to help him find work elsewhere.
The news organization’s investigation sparked immediate and widespread outrage and pressure from lawmakers, students, faculty, union leaders, and newspaper editorial boards, many of whom called for him to step down.
Castro said he chose not to fire or discipline Lamas because Lamas had “retreat rights” in his contract. Retreat rights are meant to provide faculty members who give up tenure to take administrative positions, such as dean and provost, the ability to “retreat” to the faculty if the administrative position does not work out.
Lamas was not a tenured faculty member when he accepted the vice president job at Castro’s behest in 2014, but he negotiated retreat rights into his contract.
In response to questions from USA TODAY, Castro and Fresno State attorney Darryl Hamm said the retreat rights in Lamas’ contract might have enabled him to return to the faculty even if Castro had tried to fire him. Instead, they said, they chose to negotiate a settlement agreement to avoid a potentially costly lawsuit from him and ensure his permanent separation from the CSU.
Castro also negotiated retreat rights into his chancellor contract, despite not having been a tenured faculty member.
Within days of his appointment in September 2020, records show Castro named Cal Poly as the school he wished to retreat to, should he exercise those rights. Cal Poly’s tenured faculty and president unanimously approved his retreat rights at the time, records obtained by USA TODAY show.
Those rights remain intact, according to Castro’s settlement with the board Friday. He can still exercise those rights at Cal Poly.
Or, as Fresno State did with Lamas, Cal Poly and Castro could also enter into a separate settlement agreement that would waive his retreat rights and prevent him from working at the campus.
Kenny Jacoby is a reporter for USA TODAY’s investigations team who covers universities, sports, policing and sexual violence. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @kennyjacoby.
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