|STLCC Still Pays Full Salary of Former Choir Director
By Carlos Restrepo
June 22, 2008
Within the next 30 days, the fate of Dr. Larry Stukenholtz, former choir director at STLCC-Meramec, will be decided, said Roy Shanenberg, senior manager of employee relations at STLCC.
Six months ago, Stukenholtz was terminated shortly after being suspended with pay when a student from Stukenholtz's former school in California raised allegations of sexual abuse. Stukenholtz filed a grievance in January 2008 and he is still being paid his full salary and benefits during the grievance process.
Stukenholtz's annual salary is $60,700. As of May 2008, he had received approximately $25,000.
Patricia Crowe, spokesperson for STLCC, said the exact reason as to why Stukenholtz was fired is confidential information.
Sarah Gray, Stukenholtz's alleged victim, and three other alleged victims filed a civil lawsuit against Stukenholtz in June of 2006, which ended with the Catholic Diocese of Orange County, Calif, paying $6.7 million to settle the civil lawsuit.
Following the lawsuit, Gray filed a police report with the Fullerton, CA. Police department in October 2007. Gray said there is still an active and open investigation regarding criminal charges.
Last year, when Gray found out that Stukenholtz was teaching at Meramec, she provided evidence to the Board of Trustees that Stukenholtz had resigned from his Catholic school in California after officials had determined he "had inappropriate sexual relations with former students." Stukenholtz was fired Dec. 20, 2007, a month after Gray's meeting with STLCC officials.
Shaneberger said the process of grievance grants the employee who filed the grievance his full salary until the grievance is settled.
Shaneberger said the grievance process is expected to end within 30 days. The outcome is unknown as STLCC is looking for a mediator to preside over the arbitration process. The arbitrator could give an opinion, and that opinion will be passed to the Board, and the Board will agree with the opinion, disagree with it, or modify it.
"The remedy that Stukenholtz wants is to be reinstated into his position, and the arbitrator can do that; he can [also] agree with him not coming back or leaving," Shaneberger said. "Those are the two major possibilities, but I think it could be in between."
A "BUSINESS" MATTER
Gray, who was 17 at the time the alleged incidents with Stukenholtz took place, said it's important for students and the community to remember that these are legal, bureaucratic matters and that Stukenholtz's contract with the college is a completely separate issue from his guilt or innocence regarding the sexual abuse of minors.
Gray, now 27, said STLCC is a business institution and has policies it must abide by.
"That Larry Stukenholtz is still getting paid does not negate the statements made under oath by his former employer that he was forced to resign or be fired because he admitted to having sexual contact with a teenage student," Gray said. "If he is reinstated, it will only be because of a business technicality regarding his contract with the college."
Crowe said Larry Stuckenholtz has the right to grieve his termination "St. Louis Community College has followed the policies regarding personnel matters as outlined by our Board of Trustees," Crowe said. "Employee termination processes are difficult for all parties; we hope that this process will come to a close in the near future."
Gray said her main concern is not the fact that Stukenholtz is still getting paid.
"It's my responsibility as a victim of sexual abuse to tell what happened to me in the hopes that no other young person will go through the trauma I had to endure," Gray said. "I urge the students of St. Louis Community College, especially those who know Dr. Stukenholtz well, to take my experience seriously and keep their distance from him if he is reinstated."
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