The District paid Oscar award winning alum Dustin Lance Black more than $26,000 so he would not sue the school after top officials rescinded an invitation for him to speak at commencement last May, according to a settlement agreement.
Former school president Mark Rocha signed the settlement agreement that paid Black $26,050 to settle “each and every claim, demand, and cause of action by black” in addition to a $3,000 honorarium on May 8. Black signed it on May 12, three days after he delivered his commencement speech.
Black had hinted at “legal ramifications” in a letter he sent to the Courier last May after school officials disinvited him from commencement when they discovered he had been the victim of “revenge porn.”
Interim President Robert Miller and Board President Anthony Fellow declined to comment on when the district decided to settle with Black or when the Board of Trustees approved the settlement. They each sent the same exact response when contacted by the Courier.
“The issue with Mr. Black has been resolved and the district has no further comment at this time,” Miller and Fellow each wrote in emails.
In the settlement, Black agreed to not disclose the settlement through “oral statements, written statements, emails, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.” Neville Kiser, Black’s assistant, did not return an email requesting comment on this story.
Academic Senate President Eduardo Cairo said that it was appalling that the board paid out that much taxpayer money to cover up a mistake it had made.
“There was no transparency during this process,” Cairo said. “If you have a roach in your house, you probably have others. So if this problem was there, I’m sure there are other problems that we are just not aware of yet. It’s a total lack of transparency.”
The school had initially decided against selecting the Oscar winning screenwriter because they feared sexually explicit photos of Black that surfaced on the Internet in 2009 would tarnish the school’s reputation.
The photos had been leaked from a sex video that Black’s former boyfriend had stolen from him. Black won a lawsuit against the website that had released the photos.
Rocha later called Black and apologized for the college’s mishandling of the situation, according to a press release put out by the school in May.
“The Board of Trustees and college administration deeply respect Mr. Black, his work and his causes,” the release stated. “The Board also sincerely apologizes to Mr. Black for any actions that may have caused hurt.”
Black won an Oscar for best screenplay in 2008 for the film “Milk.”